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David Harding of Harding Poorman Group raises his concerns over loss of talent in the industry

Published on September 14, 2010

David Harding:  My name is David Harding; I’m President and CEO of Harding Poorman Group in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

We have 165 employees, about $25 million in sales each year.  And we were talking about the lack of employees or the fact that the industry has lost about 3,000 establishments since 2004, according to one industry financial expert.  And I think the question we have to ask ourselves and challenge ourselves which is, what are we doing with the loss of talent that we are seeing in our industry?  And as printers, we should be responsible for developing the talents of the future.  How do you do that?  Well, a lot of ways.  We have some people who are going to retire in our business.  Can you make them a mentor for future pressman or future folder operators, or future cutter operators, or even your management team?  Can you develop a mentoring program and maybe those people get a bonus out of mentoring an employee.  And at the end of the year if that employee passes a test, I’m able to get that bonus because I mentored them. 

But we need to be deeply concerned because we are losing some great people and they may say, “Hey, I’m not going to come back to the printing industry because it didn’t do me right the first time.  So I think it’s inherent in us as printers to prove that our industry can be a great industry and it is a great industry and prove to businesses and people alike that we are an industry worth thinking about getting into. 

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By Jack Tozer on Sep 14, 2010

This is a great speech and very well stated. We also need to implore our learning institutions with the challenge to educate our youth in the importance of the Graphic Communication Industry to the world's economy.


By Erik Nikkanen on Sep 17, 2010

The industry is a closed industry. Past "expert" experience is used as a filter to prevent people with new ideas from coming into the industry. This is an unfortunate part of the culture of the printing industry. If one does not think in a certain way, then one is not welcomed.


By Chuck Gehman on Sep 20, 2010

Disagree with Eric. At Mimeo, none of our founders came from the printing industry, but they now know, after being in the industry for 10 years, as much or more about printing than anyone who has been in it since childhood. They respect print expertise, which is why we have people like Charlie Corr, Brian Rooney, and myself. But we are always on the lookout for new ways of doing things, new thinking, and we're looking inside and outside the industry for ideas. I think a lot of younger companies are doing this, and certainly you can't survive these days without constantly re-evaluating your business. Meanwhile, let's support the youth of the industry by supporting the EDSF's Scholarship Night at GraphExpo, Tuesday, October 5, 2010, from 5 pm - 9 pm. Click the link below to register to attend a ground breaking evening with dinner, a motivational speaker, plenty of networking with some of the most influential people in the industry, a silent auction. Most important, help us raise $100,000 for continuing the EDSF's mission to bring great young people into the industry. http://www.edsf.org/scholarshipnight


By Erik Nikkanen on Sep 20, 2010

Chuck, you proved my point.

It took you ten years to get the founders to think the same way as your experts.

The comment of "they respect print expertise" has the clear meaning that the experts are the ones that know how things need to be, therefore don't question the experts.

That is fine if you do not want new ideas but for real innovation, one has to disrespect expertise to some extent. It is vital to not accept the status quo or the accepted state of art as being a good condition.

I am sorry but I think your comment about your group always looking for new ideas outside of the industry is just lip service. I don't believe it. If any idea out there does not fit your preconceived views, it is not taken seriously. That is the problem. That is what holds the industry back. It is a part of your culture and you are not even aware of this problem.


By Chuck Gehman on Sep 20, 2010

Erik, I must not get your point, but you missed my point completely. My disagreement with you is that the industry is not "closed", there are amazing opportunities for everyone in this very large ecosystem we operate in.

To your point about "disrespecting", that's not a word I would use-- "disrupting" is more appropriate, and that's what we are doing at Mimeo.

You clearly don't know anything about Mimeo, so I would invite you to attend the Printing Industries Converge conference in Memphis, in November. There be an open house at one of our plants, you can find out why what we are doing is working so well for our customers, and our company.


By Erik Nikkanen on Sep 20, 2010

Chuck, I had a look at the Mimeo site. It is impressive and does not look like the normal printing organization. Seems to be mostly digital print and I can see how they will be successful in their efforts. Your organizations is not the norm. Good for Mimeo.

My comments were aimed more traditional printers where there is resistance to new ideas. Thanks for pointing out the Mimeo difference.


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