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Joe Morgan shares his background as CEO of Standard Register

Published on November 18, 2010

Joe Morgan President and CEO of Standard Register talks with Cary Sherburne about his background and how it shapes his leadership style.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com, and I’m where with Joe Morgan who is President and CEO of Standard Register.  Welcome today.

Joe Morgan:  Thank you Cary.

Cary Sherburne:  You know, Standard Register has been undergoing a lot of change recently and a lot of it under your leadership and I find it very interesting that you have maybe a different background than a lot of CEO’s in our industry, maybe you could talk a little bit about your background and how you got into print and maybe you can sort of start talking about how you think that background makes your leadership style different.

Joe Morgan:  Sure.  I’d say a couple of attributes to my background – I’m an engineer by training.  I did get my masters in marketing and international business, so I’ve spent time kind of in a balanced way.  I was fortunate to work within the supply chain.  I would say I’ve been in the ecosystem of the print industry through most of my career.  But I did work for a company that provide – at Flexicon, a provider of press sensitive materials to the label part of the printing industry.  And then I worked at Sony, which had a very broad perspective of the industry.  I worked there for a long time.  And then I did get into technology.

So I got into technology primarily because I knew that if you were a material science person, which I am, and this industry has based its past on material science, that you couldn’t advance if you couldn’t have a clear understanding of how technology was going to impact that.  And when I say technology, I mean information technology.

Cary Sherburne:  Okay.

Joe Morgan:  So I spent probably the first two-thirds of my career on the material side and the last third really on information technology, but along the way I have been extremely fortunate to be around tremendous entrepreneurs that get it, which is really two things; the customer and the employee.  And so I take a very balanced approach, which is challenging when you’re trying to grow a company that’s been, you know, candidly struggling a little bit trying to find it’s way, which we have.  But we’re starting to get, you know, it’s starting to catch a little bit here and it’s catching because the employees are seeing it.  And that’s a really tough thing to communicate when you see our industry around art being a key component to it now moving to technology, taking away a lot of that value that the people who are standing in front of an old press felt was the only you could be successful. 

So to get them involved in this transformation is really key.  So I spent a lot of time traveling with employees.  I actually have sessions called Coffee with Joe, which I didn’t name that – someone came up with that for me.  But we meet and we have open discussions into the hours of the night talking about the business and where we are trying to go as a company. 

Cary Sherburne:  That’s great. 

Joe Morgan:  And it’s actually really exciting. 

Cary Sherburne:  At all levels in the organization. 

Joe Morgan:  Everywhere.  We do a lot of that.  In fact, coming up here in the next few weeks, I’m taking on town halls, which happen after we release our earnings to the road.  We’re going to bring it to one or our facilities, which doesn’t really happen in our company, it usually is a headquarters event.  And now I’m bringing it to the road, which is exciting. 

Cary Sherburne:  Now, I have been in – I’ve had the pleasure of being in your office before, it’s set up a little uniquely.  Maybe you can talk about why you did that.  

Joe Morgan:  Sure.  Yeah, it’s interesting.  It’s kind of a funny story.  I wanted a very open atmosphere.  I happen to have the corner office, which we have all heard about.  I’m getting older now so I can refer back to that when I was a kid.  You always want to get that corner office.  Well I actually have it.  It’s beautiful, as you have seen. 

Cary Sherburne:  Oh yeah, the woodwork is –

Joe Morgan:  The architecture, the woodwork, is really great.  But it’s not necessarily conducive to the kind of environment we live in today, which is open communication and the like.  So, I’ve actually done a fairly effective job of transforming my office into a more of an open space.  But outside of my office, we actually put our product management team, a tele-sales and web marketing organization right there.  And I did that because I wanted to have direct contact with clients every day because that’s – those are the people that are able to implement new things really quickly, so we get primary feedback.  And it’s exciting because it creates this openness that becomes very natural in our culture. 

Cary Sherburne:  And you don’t have a desk. 

Joe Morgan:  I don’t have a desk.  I have a podium.  Not because I preach, but because I’m impatient and I can’t stand still, so I have a headset and I roam around the office and I talk to people.  And I have a flat screen on the wall and I project other things that I want to refer to, and it’s fun. 

Cary Sherburne:  That’s great.  I found that so interesting.  Well thank you so much for sharing that with us. 

Joe Morgan:  Cary, thank you so much.  It’s a pleasure. 

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