One of James A. Gordon’s favorite axioms is “Are you here by default, or are you here by design?” As the third generation president and CEO of Winston Printing Company, a provider of branded and private label printed retail folding cartons, Gordon has steered his family business to its 100th anniversary in June by design.
“Having a talented workforce who could adapt to significant changes in the printing processes that occurred during our first century was another important component of success.”“As a family business, Winston Packaging has remained strong by having engaged owners who repositioned the company to take advantage of local and regional opportunities as market conditions changed,” Gordon says. “Having a talented workforce who could adapt to significant changes in the printing processes that occurred during our first century was another important component of success.”
One of the company’s 50+ employees is Gordon’s son Russell, who joined the company in 2008, meaning Winston Packaging is a fourth-generation family business, a distinction only 5 percent of family businesses can claim. In addition, this world-class operation — certified to print for national companies such as Target and Kodak — has remained local to Winston-Salem, which Gordon says is a central location with excellent transportation routes for shipping the finished products.
“The economic and technologic tides in this industry have changed so significantly over the last century, but Winston Packaging has embraced change, remained flexible and stayed ahead of the curve,” Gordon says. “We have evolved from commercial printing to high-quality precision printed consumer product packaging; in essence, we have adapted to the market, to the highs and lows of our customers and to ever-changing technology. It’s what I call ‘surthriving.’ We’ve stayed ahead of the curve by sheer determination to succeed and continue our family legacy.”
Winston Printing Co. was founded in 1911 by Alexander G. Gordon, a journeyman bookbinder and entrepreneur who was a skilled marketer. He steered the company through the first two World Wars operating as a modest job shop for commercial printing in downtown Winston-Salem. R.J. Reynolds was the company’s largest customer and remained so for 82 years.
John R. Gordon, who succeeded his father as company president in 1952 brought the expertise of an industrial engineer to the printing craft after years of electronics experience in the Air Force and military service in World War II and Korea. During the company’s middle years, he transformed the company into a manufacturing plant, expanded capabilities with the addition of offset printing presses, and significantly improved the workflow processes and management techniques. Winston Printing built and moved into a new 56,000 square foot facility on North Point Boulevard in 1979, where it remains today. Two subsequent additions brought the total square footage to 80,000 square feet in 2002.
Current president and CEO James Gordon decided during his teenage years that he wanted to become involved in the family business. Working each summer and during school breaks, he learned the business from the ground up, earned a business degree from NC State University and, after five years as the Manufacturing Manager, succeeded his father as company president in 1984. Gordon has steered the company through the Internet/Digital Age by staying at the forefront of technology and recognizing emerging trends in the market. He turned the company into a full-fledged packaging operation during the mid 90s, with the operating unit name change to “Winston Packaging” in 1999.
As times change, Winston Packaging changes with it, moving to newer industries such as nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and Internet retail, and becoming certified to sustainable “green” packaging standards. The company actively pursues practices to reduce, reuse and recycle all materials used in its facility in order to reduce its carbon footprint.
“When you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years, you gain a perspective of what my grandfather and father faced, up to the experiences my son and I face today,” Gordon says. “My grandfather and father faced their own very unique challenges: the Great Depression, two World Wars, rationing, a manufacturing revolution. Today, surviving and thriving as a fourth-generation, family-owned business relies on strong customer relationships and partnering to help them find solutions in sustainable package design, GMP quality standards, customer management systems, shipping and more. From what my grandfather started in 1911 through today, we are certainly proud of our 100 years.”