Pursuing As-Yet Undefined New Opportunities with Long-Time Associate Chip Stine
Last week, Roy Grossman surprised the industry when he announced he would be leaving successful commercial printer Sandy Alexander, where he has been for 17 years. The letter he wrote to the Sandy Alexander team announcing his departure is included with this article.
WhatTheyThink spoke with Grossman to get more detail.
WTT: Roy, thank you for speaking with us. As always, we appreciate your generosity with your time and your insight. To say we were surprised by your decision to leave Sandy Alexander would be an understatement.
RG: I have to tell you that since the announcement was made, I have been contacted by so many people—customers, suppliers, my associates here at Sandy Alexander—and it is really touching to see how much people care. It makes you realize what is so great about this business. This is a relationship business and people truly do care. You get caught up in your daily life, and you often take it for granted. It is almost like being able to see a eulogy from a distance. So much of my identity is tied up with Sandy Alexander, which made the decision doubly difficult.
WTT: What prompted this decision? Although you have been at Sandy Alexander for 17 years, at age 56, you are still pretty young.
RG: To be honest with you, I was in discussions with Mickelberry, our parent company, about a long-term contract renewal, and I realized that if I signed that agreement, it would likely be the last career move I would make. I am blessed with health, energy and resources, and I want to go on to do something else.
WTT: I understand Chip Stine is leaving as well, and that he has been associated with you for a long time.
RG: Chip was my college roommate, and he came to work with me in the family business after we graduated, so yes, we have been together for quite some time. We talked it over and decided we would make the next move together, whatever that may be.
WTT: It sounds like you aren’t sure what you will be doing next. I take it that means that the rumors that you will be taking over the leadership of a large and struggling printing company are unfounded?
RG: They are, and you are not the first to tell me about that rumor! We are not sure what we will be doing, whether it will be in or out of the industry. Clearly, I would like to stay in the business, as long as it is not competitive with Sandy Alexander. I think about all of the dynamic change occurring in the industry and all of the opportunity that it presents, and I can see us leveraging these opportunities. In the last few years we have built a very strong digital infrastructure that I have enjoyed being a part of. It has enabled me to see the industry in an entirely new light. There are all kinds of possibilities. But first, I plan to take a few months off since I haven’t done that since I graduated from college. I plan to enjoy that time while I figure out my next move.
WTT: Are you interested in one of these larger companies which surely can benefit from your leadership skills?
RG: While I’m certainly open to a variety of opportunities, I’m not sure that it would be my first choice. In this industry, being large is a double edged sword. Sam Palmisano, the CEO of IBM whom I have had the pleasure of being acquainted with for many years, wrote an article in the Financial Times this week where he said that the winners of the future are going to be the entrepreneurs who can figure out the global marketplace, and those entrepreneurs are often in smaller companies. The largest printers are not necessarily the center of innovation in our industry as some of them used to be in the past.
WTT: I understand you will be with the company till the end of May, and then Mike Graff takes over as President while the company searches for a new CEO.
RG: Yes, that is correct. Mike did not want to be CEO. He is the head of new development and technology and one of the world’s greatest sales people, and he will have a very strong senior management team to support him. The company will be in terrific shape while that search is underway. They have the luxury of not having to move too quickly because of that strong team. Quite frankly, if the company didn’t do well in my absence, it would mean I didn’t do a good job while I was here.
WTT: Will you continue your role on The Print Council?
RG: I will continue if they want me to. I am very committed to that initiative, and would like nothing more than to stay involved. I have been involved from the beginning, and Ben Cooper has done a terrific job—we have really made progress. It is so important to the industry. Meanwhile, I plan to travel, to relax, read and think, and when I figure out what I will be doing, I will be full of vim and vigor. WhatTheyThink will be the first to know, as the definitive industry source of news!
May 7, 2008
After 17 years with this wonderful company, I have decided that the time has come for me to chart new waters. Accordingly, on May 31st I will resign as President & CEO. I want to make very clear that this decision is completely voluntary. I informed Mickelberry, our parent company, of my decision several weeks ago. As always, my decision was treated with respect and support. Mickelberry made clear that I was welcome to remain in my current position as long as I desired.
At 56 years of age, this is an opportunity to “write a new chapter”. But the fact is this was an extremely difficult decision. I love this company, and believe in everything it represents. I have formed relationships with many of you that are among my most treasured. Yet I also find much comfort in the knowledge that there are many great people here, and that this company will continue to thrive and lead the industry.
Chip Stine will be departing with me. As many of you are aware, since our college days we have worked together, and will now forge our new chapter together.
I am particularly pleased to announce that Mike Graff will be promoted to President. No one is more deserving or more qualified. In addition, a search is under way for a new CEO. In the interim, the company will be ably led by Mike and the senior management team. All of the other members of senior management will be remaining with the company. A detailed transition program will be forthcoming shortly.
I will always be proud of the years I have shared with you all. Those memories will be cherished. I will now look forward to watching Sandy Alexander prosper in the years ahead. It is my hope that our paths will cross often in the future.