Editor's Note: Bud Hadfield, the founder of Kwik Kopy Printing, passed away on April 11, 2011 at the age of 87. A former employee – who was a Quick Printing columnist for several years – submitted this reflection about one of the industry's most colorful legends.
Back when I played a lot of golf, our group – which often consisted of 10 guys flying down the fairway in 10 separate carts, trying to get in as many holes as possible before total darkness ruined the fun – had a saying, “Hit when the golfing gods move you.” That meant to heck with protocol about honors from the last hole, first ones to the tee let it rip. Often there would be the sound of ‘whoosh, whoosh, whoosh’ as three people swung consecutively.
I adopted a similar philosophy about writing. If the inspiration comes at 8:00 at night, sit down at the keyboard and start the words flowing. This morning I awakened at 3:45 a.m. – which is an hour-and-a-half early for me – with memories of the most complex man I’ve known swirling in my head. It’s 4:15 as I type this. Somehow that seems fitting because, in his prime, Bud Hadfield would have been starting his workday right about now.
A Chance Meeting
My path crossed with Bud when I read a Dallas Morning News article about him in 1998. In the accompanying picture, he stood in front of the Alamo, except this one wasn’t in San Antonio; it was in Cypress, near Houston. I learned he and wife Mary started franchising Kwik Kopy Printing in 1967, and nearly 20 years later – after growing to more than 1,000 locations – recreated the historic Texas mission on a wooded property they named Northwest Forest.
The article mentioned Bud handed out his autobiography as a business card, so I wrote him a brief letter requesting a copy. Three weeks later he called and asked me to come spend a day with him. In his typical ‘why put off until Monday what you can do on Friday’ style, he wanted me there in two days. I flew down and was driven to his house in a Northwest Forest Conference Center van. Looking at the tall pine trees along the way, I said to the driver, “This is Houston?”
Bud was confined at home after falling. That was one of many injuries and illnesses he endured in the last decades of his life – including twice beating cancer. Sitting in a leather recliner with a blanket and small dog on his lap, he looked like Lionel Barrymore in It’s a Wonderful Life. Continuing the Capraesque moment of the entire ‘I must be dreaming’ experience, outside the window behind him hummingbirds swirled and whitetail deer roamed among the trees.
After asking about my background and family, Bud spoke at great lengths of Mary and their children Jim and Katherine, each of whom has had numerous roles in the company over the years. Then he wanted to know what questions I had for him. I came prepared, so I said: “I read in the article that you failed at more than a dozen businesses before Kwik Kopy Printing. How did you ever have the courage to start the second one after the first one didn’t make it?”
He looked me straight in the eye, smiled a devilish grin I would see often over the years, and said: “David, that tells me one of two things about you. Either you’ve never failed at anything – which means you aren’t willing to take risks – or you’ve failed at many things, and discovered that’s not so bad. Failing means you learned and will do better next time. Failure means you quit. I’m guessing David isn’t a quitter.” I don’t recall saying much the next two hours.
Instead I sat in awe as Bud shared stories of: operating a printing press from his basement during high school (he was eventually expelled); serving in the Merchant Marine during World War II (he got seasick the first time out); being an amateur boxer (he got beat a lot); starting his own print shop (he achieved minimal success); campaigning to be mayor of Houston (he was trounced); seeing a new printing technology in 1966 (he thought, “If this works, it could be big.”).