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A CGX Update with CEO Joe Davis

Published on September 26, 2011

CEO Joe Davis provides Cary Sherburne with a recent update on Consolidated Graphics from an executive perspective.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi.  I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com, and I'm here with Joe Davis who’s CEO of Consolidated Graphics.  Welcome. 

Joe Davis:  Thank you, delighted to be here.  

Cary Sherburne:  You know, Consolidated Graphics is really one of those success stories that we industry watchers like to watch, you know.  You’ve been a little maybe low profile in terms of the media and so on, but when you look inside the box, so to speak, you can see some real results.  Maybe you can give us just a little update on what’s going on these days at Consolidated Graphics and what you’re most proud of about the organization.

Joe Davis:  Well, I’ve got a lot of things I’m pretty proud of about the company.  We have a lot of great employees.  I have 70 presidents who I think are 70 of the best printing company presidents in the world.  And we have a lot of good things happening in the company, we’re investing in a lot of technology.  And our Leadership Development Program now has over 500 people in that program.  We hired in January and June of this year 125 to participate in that program.  

So we just finished our—we call it our National Associate Meeting in Houston, two weeks ago and we had about 400 people there attending that meeting.  And that’s something that starts with our annual meeting on Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday, half a day Sunday.  And we have break-out sessions and a quiz show at the end to test knowledge and see what people are actually learning in our three-year program.

Cary Sherburne:  These are graduates, new graduates?

Joe Davis:  These are recent college graduates who have just joined us, and that’s a very exciting program.  And I tell you, as you have more and more technology in the printing business this becomes a more and more important program.  

Cary Sherburne:  Now a lot of your presidents went through that program years ago.

Joe Davis:  Well, we have 25 of our 70 presidents are graduates of that program.  And, you know, over time as people retire I’d expect that to continue to grow.  We’ve had a lot of people in that program with three or four years’ experience who have taken over some rather challenging opportunities.  I’ve got one guy who is now 31 and he has run… worked at one company, transferred to another company, ran it, and recently started running a $35 million company in North Carolina, a company that had some financial problems in the past and it was a new acquisition for us.  And I’m really really pleased with the results we’re having with our people.  We’ve got a lot of very experienced people as well who do a super, super job.

Cary Sherburne:  You know one thing, I was able to attend your Emerge Conference, your customer conference this year.  First of all, it was extremely impressive and extremely well done.  But the hand-out that everyone got, the personalized hand-out that everyone got, inside were the phone numbers of all the presidents, and I just thought that is so wonderful.  I mean the presidents are available right, you know, direct to the customer.  That’s great.

Joe Davis:  We say we give the service and response of a local printing company supported by a national organization, if you will.  And really, our presidents make most of—all of the important decisions related to customer service and running a company.  And, you know, if we need to run around the clock 24/7 to get a customer’s job delivered on time, they don’t call me and ask me to do that; they do that on their own.  So I really have—certainly I have some oversight with respect to the companies and we have group vice presidents as well, but the presidents are the most important person in the company.

Cary Sherburne:  And I have just one more question for you.  If you kind of look out over the rest of 2011 and into 2012, what would be your top one or two or three priorities for the company besides make money?

Joe Davis:  Well, we certainly want to be profitable and we have maintained profits throughout what I’ll call the great recession.  And I think we’ve seen some improvement in our business today.  We certainly last quarter had same store sales growth and we’re growing our company through acquisitions, and acquisitions continue to be a very important part of our growth strategy.  So the one thing that I see really happening in our company is we continue to invest more and more in technology.  

We’ve got a world class technology organization today and that’s something that we sort of limped along with a few years, but the last couple of years we’ve begun to really focus on that.  We’ve got a new data center, a Level Four data center, a lot of new software in our streamlined products, and our customers are really, really liking what we’re doing there.  So I expect that to continue to be a real strong growth area for us.

Cary Sherburne:  And you’re still going to do Emerge?

Joe Davis:  We’re still going to do Emerge.  As you know, we had our second Emerge this year, annual Emerge Conference in Dallas.  We plan to have another Emerge Conference in New Orleans next year.  And that’s a place where we get together—oh, a lot of our customers, we had almost 1,000 people there this year, and it’s really a technology conference.  And we’re not, you know, we’re not just showing a CGX booth.  We certainly have some vendors there and suppliers and partners who are participating in it, but primarily we’re focusing on new technology in the industry.  And as we continue to grow and change in this business, technology is going to become a bigger and bigger piece of our operation.  

Our digital business, for instance, has grown a lot and it continues to grow.  And I was surprised, but one of our suppliers told me one time—I said I don’t know how big we’ve gotten in the digital business.  But he said, “Well, Joe, we’ve done the research, you have the largest digital footprint in the world,” which actually surprised me at the time and we continue to grow.  I think today we have 245 high-end digital presses so we’ve got them in super centers throughout the country.  We have five digital super centers, including Prague, and we’re expanding into Asia; that’s very exciting for me now with a joint venture in Asia.  And we have an operation and growing already, a digital center in Japan, and we expect that to continue to grow.

Cary Sherburne:  That’s great.  Well, we’ll be watching to see how you do.  Thank you very much for joining us.

Joe Davis:  Okay.  Thank you, thank you very much.

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