Quad/Graphics envisions future growth
Quadracci believes print is not dying, is stabilizing

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Sept. 13, 2015


Quad/Graphics CEO Joel Quadracci speaks during the Waukesha County Business Alliances annual meeting at the Country Springs Hotel.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Quad/Graphics is between stage two and stage three in its history and is moving toward investing its free cash flow into expanding the printing company, CEO and President Joel Quadracci said Friday.

Quadracci was interviewed by Lynn Sprangers, vice president of community impact at Mount Mary University, during the Waukesha County Business Alliance's annual meeting at Country Springs Hotel and Conference Center.

Started by his father, Harry, Quad/Graphics has weathered many storms with one of the most recent being the Great Recession, which hit the publishing and print industries especially hard.

Joel Qaudracci was born in 1969 and Quad/Graphics was started in 1971 so "we kind of grew up together," he said.

Quad/Graphics' chapters of life

The first chapter of the business was when it was experiencing significant growth, buying all new equipment and building new facilities. Around 2008, the second stage started when Quad/Graphics began to consolidate facilities, and would move usable equipment from one facility to another and melt what was unusable.


Lynn Sprangers discusses Quad/Graphics with the company's CEO Joel Quadracci on Friday during the Waukesha County Business Alliance's annual meeting at the Country Springs Hotel.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Quad/Graphics is moving into its third stage, which will involve taking the company's free cash flow and using it to expand. Quadracci said he is waiting for the industry to stabilize more before looking to invest the company's significant amount of free cash flow, which he estimated to be about $180 million this year.

He recalled 2006 and 2007 as "glorious years." Quad/Graphics was then the third largest printer in the United States. Quadracci said the family discussed whether it would prefer to maintain the status quo or attempt to grow bigger by acquiring other businesses, which it proceeded to do. In order to properly acquire additional companies, Quadracci said the company consulted with other companies to create a strategy that would work for Quad/Graphics.

In the past few years, Quad/Graphics has grown from a $1.8 billion company with 8,500 employees to an approximately $4.8 billion business in 2015 with 26,000 employees.

Quadracci is predicting that Quad/Graphics will add about another 500 positions in Wisconsin in the next several years, but they will be the result of consolidation at other out-of-state facilities.

When asked what keeps him awake at night, Quadracci said it's a tough industry and there is a lot of consolidation to think about. He said the printing industry is also in a price war between Quad/Graphics and RR Donnelly, headquartered in Chicago.

With there being only about a 2 percent gross domestic product growth for publishing, Quadracci said that amount tends to signify a need to cut back.

"Take away growth and there's no room for error," he said.

Future of print

While the disruption the economic recession caused was great, Quadracci said, "Print is not dead. I know because I always read about it in print."

What really is not dead is that human factor, he said, and the continuing desire of people to pick up a print product for reading.

Quadracci also shared how marketing has changed in recent years to being more targeted. He said marketing is more data-driven currently, but the printing industry has been data-driven for the past 20 years. When mass marketing started, there wasn't the technology available to target individual consumers - but that has all changed, he said. Now, specifics pages of an advertisement can be sent to a certain home and it can include a map to that resident's closest store, he said.

Going forward, Quadracci said the company must focus more on media solutions and finding a grand activator to navigate the different media channels.

Growing up a Quadracci

Quadracci said it was fascinating to grow up in his family's home. When Quad/Graphics was formed, the family took out a second mortgage on its home and was the poor family on Pine Lake. While the children were attending public high school in Shorewood, they became the nouveau riche, he said. He said the Quadracci kids felt like they never quite fit in.

But that also brought some interesting home experiences. Quadracci said his parents would have clients over for dinner at the house because they couldn't afford to take them out to a restaurant. Because his mother was a terrible cook, Quadracci joked that his father would make the guests several martinis before dinner.

He remembers sitting at the dinner table listening to the president of Newsweek magazine speaking about the industry, which he compared to getting prepared for a Master of Business Administration degree at the age of 9.

Quadracci also remembered Quad/Graphics going through many hard times and his father making risky decisions.

"He literally bet the business multiple times. That's what an entrepreneur does," he said.


Email: kmichalets@conleynet.com