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Association Insights: Follow the Industry Leaders for Growth During Recession

“Our industry has never seen anything like the last 10 years,” state NAPL chief economist Andrew Paparozzi and senior economist Joseph Vincenzino at the beginning of a new NAPL white paper: NAPL Leaders: Who They Are, Why They’re Successful. The white paper identifies shared characteristics of graphic communications companies that have not only weathered, but grown during a period of recessionary economy and industry structural change.

“There was the deep recession of 2001-2003, followed by the even deeper recession of 2008-2010,” they continue. “There was record consolidation, with the number of printing establishments declining by over 20 percent. And there was the Internet and digitization, transforming our services, markets, and competition. We went into the decade as one industry. We came out as a different industry.”

How did some companies grow and prosper during these turbulent times while so many others faltered? According to the NAPL economists, it’s because these businesses understood that they needed to go far beyond just getting better at what they had always done before.

“Sustainable success now required new mindsets, models, and approaches, because opportunity—and there was plenty in our new industry—would not be found in the same old places or by doing the same old things,” say Paparozzi and Vincenzino, adding: “Many didn’t get that. NAPL Leaders did.”

Who Are They?

NAPL Research Center studies found that these leaders were not companies of a particular size, equipment configuration, or ownership structure; rather, they are companies that can turn even the most disruptive change into an opportunity rather than a threat. “They don’t do it overnight, and their numbers may not be pretty while they’re doing it, but Leaders ultimately turn change to their advantage by making the tough decisions that others delay or avoid altogether,” they explain.

The result: While sales were down more than 20 percent (-21.1%) for the industry at large between 2000 and 2011, they were up more than 50 percent (54.9%) for NAPL Leaders during the same period—including nearly seven years of economic recession. That’s an amazing 76 percentage point gap. And, while 7,000 industry companies were lost during that period, not one Leader failed.

“Leaders aren’t immune to recession,” note Paparozzi and Vincenzino, “but they aren’t paralyzed by it either. Even at a recession’s deepest, when others are cutting, freezing, and hunkering down, Leaders are focused on getting more efficient, more competitive, and more valuable to their clients. And in the early days of recovery, when others are still in a wait-and-see mindset, Leaders are moving aggressively to gain market share.

“That’s why Leaders pull out of recession earlier than the industry at large,” they add, “and it’s why they widen their lead as recovery progresses. Expect Leaders to make comparable gains as recovery from the Great Recession progresses—and know that the foundation for those gains is being laid right now, when others are waiting for the economy to make everything right.”

The NAPL Leaders: Who They Are, Why They’re Successful white paper, sponsored by Canon, introduces many of the strategies and tactical steps shared by Leaders—from their approach to setting capital investment priorities to how they diversify services and recruit and retain key employees. A copy of the report is sent to all NAPL corporate members as a benefit of membership. For information on purchasing the report or joining NAPL, please contact Donna Komlo at 800-642-6275, ext. 6345, or

Listen In

If you’d like to listen in as industry leaders discuss the day’s hottest topics—and ask them some questions of your own—you won’t want to miss NAPL’s NewsTalk Live broadcasts. These live hour-long shows, to air monthly in 2012, feature conversations with top executives of printing companies and suppliers and subject matter experts from NAPL’s Business Advisory Services Group. Each broadcast is moderated by NAPL senior consultant Howie Fenton.

All NewsTalk Live programs are recorded and available for later listening by going to NAPL’s website ( Among the broadcasts currently archived: “Sales Strategies for the Recovery” with NAPL vice president and senior consultant Mike Philie, and “Successful Service Diversification” with Classic Graphics president David Pitts and Suttle-Straus president John Berthelsen.

Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., is president and chief executive officer of the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL). Reach him at 800-642-6275, ext. 6310 or