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Friday, February 15, 2013

THE PLACES YOU GO AND THE PEOPLE YOU MEET

PRINT '80 was not the dawn of the digital revolution in the printing industry, but damn close to it. Scitex, the CEPS vendor had opened it doors the previous year. "+"John Warnock and "+"Chuck Geshke had left Xerox PARC and founded Adobe in 1982 to create PostScript, it's PDL. There were all of the film giants on hand, but the most prominent exhibitor was Heidelberg USA, then owned by the East Asiatic Trading company. Harris Corporation had made a decision in 1979 to cease production on sheetfed presses and concentrate on web presses instead. "+"Seth Dorfler, who was assistant ad manager at Heidelberg believes that the company's press conference was at the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place. All I can remember was that it was held in a jam-packed auditorium with standing room only to accommodate the dozens of American and  foreign press members, as well as Heidelberg's sales force and customers.

We ran from press conferences to social events like a runner on a treadmill, moving as fast as we could, yet not being able to keep pace with the increasing speed of those gatherings. After day three, GAM's sales reps, with a limited number of accounts, returned home. Getting a chance to spend time at our booth was a luxury, and about mid-exhibit, a man sought me out. His name was"+"S.Thomas Dunn, and he was anxious to write a column on technology. He was a true visionary, and brilliantly forecast the changes in the ways we would be imaging. Tom  told  me he had started a conference called Lasers in Graphics, and asked me to moderate a panel at the event. I laid down some guidelines for his column, including a clause that prohibited him from writing for another printing publication,. We also agreed on a fee. (A year later at Graph Expo, we discovered that he had also written an article in American Printer. We had a loud shouting match in front of the GAM booth, and I summarily fired him. (I no longer moderated panels and he no longer wrote a column in GAM. Nine years later, following the launch of VUE/Point, Lasers in Graphics was history.)

Another meeting at the booth was with "+"Dick Gorelick,  marketing mavrn who had left Hallmark to become a marketing consultant for mid-sized printing companies, came by to introduce himself. I've only met a handful of people with whom I've clicked with so quickly. I told him I'd observed there was very little in the way of  how-to marketing advice given at the exhibit. He agreed and the result of our meeting will be covered in Monday's blog. We began trading stories, and by the end of our talk he was finishing my sentences, and I was finishing his. Graphic Arts Monthly had a contributing editor, George Griffin, who wrote "Grif's Picks", a two page column on  printing company advertisers, but we had no one discussing marketing. issues. I arranged with Dick to write such a column beginning in 1981. Two conversations and two new contributors. Not a bad day's work.

"+"Desmond King and his sidekick Julian also stopped by  to arrange a barter for a booth at IPEX in England in 1981. I gave them a quarter page, exactly the price of a small booth, and they convinced me to travel across the pond to attend the exhibit. I met two other gentlemen who greatly impressed me. One was "+"George Carlisle from Compugraphic, a vendor that produced typesetting equipment. (Agfa Gevaert bought Compugraphic in 1988.) George was a big guy. A Dartmouth graduate, he could bring sunlight to a poorly lit room.. Six years later he would become a vice president at Scitex USA, and eventually CEO. He would also be the driving force in goosing me into creating VUE/Point.

Last, but certainly not least, I made my first contact with my twin brother, "+"John Dreyer, another big guy with a booming voice and unusual stage presence. Actually though we have the same birthday, we have  a different set of parents, and he's three years younger. Oh yeah, one more thing, he claims he's the better looking twin. Other than that, we do have a great deal in common. He had joined Pitman Company in 1965 and had worked his way up the ranks to COO and president, and in 1979 was promoted to CEO and Chairman. When he joined the firm, its sales were $7 million and when he retired nearly 25 years later Pitman's sales were $629 million. John was and is customer focused and as visible as I intended to be. He built a fabulous team at Pitman, and he ranks in my list of top five printing industry executives. The others on the list will come in future blogs.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a fellow publisher, who seemed to be at every press conference asking all the tough questions. He was the heavyweight of printing industry knowledge and published a newspaper called Typeworld. As a niche publication, GAM didn't consider it competition, but I had become a big fan of his sense of humor and grasp on the business of ink on paper. He was also the best moderator to control a panel, and mentored me through the early stages of VUE/Point, Though his son,"+"Richard Romano has been filling his rather large shoes in recent years you weren't in the graphic arts business if you didn't know his father, "+"Frank Romano.