“We share a fanatical passion for satisfying the customer”

Dave Liess and Jack O’Donnell founded Dynamic Graphic in 1986. Today, Dave Liess is the CEO of Be Printers America and Jack O’Donnell acts as Executive Vice President and COO of Dynamic Graphic and Offset Paperback, Mfrs. Be Printers News listens to the remarkable story of two business partners and friends.

How did you come up with the idea to found Dynamic Graphic at the time?
D: I was situated in an office all to myself. And then Jack O’Donnell showed up and happened to share my office with me. We were both calling customers to convince them of foil stamping. My business with publishers in New York was starting to grow significantly. One day Jack came in, and he had landed a new account. He was all excited, but I took out my calculator and said: ‘Look, this is how much money you’re gonna make.’ And it really wasn’t a lot. That started Jack and I into discussing to start this business on our own. The vision was that we could do foil stamping and embossing in the graphic arts community, and we felt we could do it better than anybody else. We founded Dynamic Graphic on August 22, 1986.

In that year, you also started a joint venture with OPM. How did that happen?
D: We didn’t get a bank loan. OPM, then already owned by Bertelsmann, was one of our largest customers. So we approached them for a contract as a security for a bank loan. A few days after our presentation, they asked whether we’d be interested in a joint venture. And of course we were! Foil stamping was still in its infancy, so our business with OPM took off almost instantly.

What sets your work apart from others?
D: Two words: Customer service. One thing Jack and I share: We have a fanatical passion for satisfying the customer. To this day we live by that one principle.

What do you do different than others in the industry?
J: We have a lot of great people – outstanding employees and managers. The other thing is that while we’re focused on the customer and on the business, we also have a little bit of fun along the way. I think that goes a long way to the culture of our company. 

How do you two work together?
D: If I can speak about Jack: I trust him with my life. I know everything he tells me is truthful, every action is in the best interest of the company, and I never, ever have to question it.
J: Our relationship has definitely evolved and as responsibilities grew, Dave and I don’t spend as much time together now. But we can still deal with whatever issues come up.

One of the segments that are going well for Be Printers America is making packaging for other industries
D: As the publishing industry started to dip in 2009/10, we were dealing with the economic crisis, the surge in eBooks along with the death of bookstores. We asked ourselves: What growth markets do we have that provide a repetitive business? We had contacts in the music and video gaming industries, and we got a nice surge of business there. Then we started to pursue Humana, the medial-care company and developed a strong business with them.
J: This wasn’t the first time that our companies had to adjust to changes, we did this several times before. The publishing market is our core business – but what keeps the company going is our ability to reinvent ourselves and change with the market.

How have you personally developed over the years?
D: I know I speak for Jack as well when I say: Both he and I came from modest upbringing. And neither one of us has ever forgotten where we came from. We have not let the growth and the success, and the good things that come with that impact our personal behavior.
J [laughs]: When we started off, Dave had black hair, and I had blond hair. Now we’ve both got white hair…

So let’s look ahead a little: What priorities do you have for the next months and years?
One thing that remains challenging for all of us in the industry is that the print book market is not going to grow much. So what we focus on is to internally optimize structures and to externally search and then seize opportunities to print for new customers, maybe in more new industries. 

Dave, Jack – thank you very much for this interview.