From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

Doing Good and Doing Well

Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence—only in constant improvement and constant change.

Tom Peters

Quad/Graphics is one of the largest printing companies in the world. It is the brainchild of Harry Quadracci Jr., a natural genius in the field of employee self-enhancement. He constantly searches for cheaper, faster and more wonderful ways to do business, always applying standards of the highest integrity.

I was asked to do a four-day training for about 900 of the company’s managers. In preparation, I conducted a set of pre-presentation telephone interviews with a randomly selected group of employees. One of the most interesting interviews was with John Imes, their ecology manager. Since a huge printing plant can produce a lot of waste, his job is to deal with all of Quad/Graphics’ effluents. They were producing a considerable amount of waste every day in every plant. John was brought in some years ago to see what he could do to lower the costs associated with this waste, and to bring the plants into compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards and regulations.

John told me he had come to the conclusion that, “We live in this town. If we spew anything into the air, we’ll all breathe it and so will our children. If we pollute the streams, we’ll all be drinking it.” So he made up his mind that the company had to commit to cleaning it all up. However, in tune with Harry Quadracci’s policies, he also decided that it had to be done while still making a profit.

Eight years later, they were actually making a profit from the cleanup efforts! They were also in full compliance with the EPA. The first thing John did was to call the EPA inspector and invite him into the plant. “I want you to be my partner in making this plant in full compliance. How can we work together to make that happen?” The inspector said that this kind of conversation had never happened before. John said to the inspector, “I want you here with me all the time. I don’t want an adversarial relationship. I want to make this plant, and all our plants, clean, efficient and effective. Let’s be partners in this process.”

In looking at the various sources of potential pollution, the ink used in printing was a very large one. They discovered that inks could be made of soy. Up until that time, soy-based inks had various problems that made them impractical. John suggested to the company that they investigate this further. A few years later, they were in the soy ink business, had perfected soy-based inks, and were now supplying them all over the world.

Then, another breakthrough. They discovered that waste paper could be used in many profitable ways. Little by little, they discovered that there was a use—a profitable use—for almost everything that had been discarded previously. Where each plant had been producing many barrels of waste each day, they cut it down to less than one barrel per day.

For John Imes, every day has become an opportunity to do something of value—not only for his company, but for his community as well.

Hanoch McCarty, Ed.D.

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