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The book on winning printing

Aug 1, 1995 12:00 AM

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Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of business books are published each year. However, this year one of them hit the bulls-eye for printing and prepress executives. The book is titled Winning in a Changing Environment (Learning to Think Strategically), and it's the newest effort from Wallace Stettinius.

Stettinius has had a long and illustrious career that has spanned 40 years, and virtually all of that time has been spent in the printing industry. Throughout the past 28 years he has focused on building Cadmus Communications, now a publicly owned company, into a $300 million operation. He has been the overseer of two PIA-supported market studies, Printing 2000 and Bridging to a Digital Future. Earlier this year, Stettinius retired as chairman of Cadmus, but he continues to be involved in the industry.

The new book is written in a simple, straightforward manner with occasional honest reflections of past mistakes. In his preface, Stettinius writes, "Every business is in a competitive game and the object of the game is to win profitably. While the object remains the same, the game has changed, as many businesses with long histories of success have found out, much to their chagrin."

Well-organized, this book opens with an overview of strategic management, moves on to discuss strategic analysis, and wraps up with sections on formulating and implementing strategy. Along the way, Stettinius addresses the issues on the minds of most industry managers. He writes about products, marketing, change, implementing new technologies, adding equipment, addressing competition and, perhaps most importantly, managing profitability.

Stettinius' honesty leads him to conclude that mistakes will be made along the way. It is particularly refreshing to read in the chapter on leadership that the author admits he could have done a better job of staffing and training in anticipation of Cadmus' needs. "I always seemed to be a step behind the demands of the business as it grew, meaning that I was responding to problems rather than anticipating them," he assesses.

He also writes, "The creation of Cadmus and the decision to grow through acquisition were good ideas, but the strategy to execute them was seriously flawed. The original plan was to operate as a holding company with very decentralized operations. What I didn't realize is that this works only when you can sell the weak performers in your portfolios. Cadmus never learned to dispose of its problems."

The book covers virtually every problem and opportunity facing today's printing executive. For an industry in which managers fall in love with equipment, capital investment decisions often are made as impulse buys. Stettinius offers a standard review form, as well as a sample analysis covering justifications, risks and alternatives, which gives management all of the information necessary to make an informed decision to support or deny a capital request.

Stettinius also cites an analysis of printing industry profits during the past 30 years, recognizing the 1970s as a boom period, followed by steadily declining profits in the 1980s, continuing through the low point of 1991. Noting that profitability has improved somewhat over the past four years, Stettinius comments, "Declining profits are only one sign of the pressures of change."

As for the future, Stettinius writes, "The best thinking now is that print will co-exist with other media, at least for the foreseeable future. The role printers will play in this new world still is evolving. We can see the emergence of an imaging business out of electronic prepress operations, which should provide the capability to feed alternative print media."

He also reprints a section of R.R. Donnelley's 1993 annual report that observes, "Print is a powerful and enduring medium that triggers interaction with other media. New media, however, undoubtedly will affect our industry. Some print products will disappear. Yet, for every new electronic medium, a related set of print products is developed."

The report also says that Donnelley prints the 1.1 million run of CompuServe Magazine, and the publishers report that when the magazine arrives each month, user activity rises sharply for the offerings mentioned.

Printing has a future, and printing executives who read this book will be better prepared to meet that future. Book reviews on business titles often end with the reviewer suggesting to the reader that this book belongs in every company library. Winning, however, belongs in the hands of every graphic arts executive.

Stettinius' book is available through local PIA affiliates and through the PIA National Bookstore. It is priced at $29.95 for PIA members and $39.95 for non-members. To order, call (703) 519-8146.