Stay the Course

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How Hudson Printing is charging forward with perseverance and resilience

By Paul Hudson

I like to walk the plant, picking up samples of the work passing through Hudson Printing. I lay the pieces out in my office and ponder what each stakeholder (designer, writer, financial officer or senior manager) set out to accomplish. What led them to invent their specific piece? What was their goal? This exercise, which I have been doing for a while, never ceases to amaze and inspire me. 

The beauty, color, texture, emotion and immense amount of data that can be derived from a printed piece is remarkable. Print is unlike any other medium. It’s emotional. Each piece has a weight, texture, imagery and language all its own. Print is sensory. We love it.

LeadingPRINT | Stay the Course

Think about it. Print can sell a product, inform, convert, promote a lifestyle or brand, celebrate an event, persuade you to visit a theatre and enhance your experience once you’re there. It’s durable, and has the ability to linger in your home or office doing its job—its job of reminding you. Beautiful print evokes emotion and inspires people to action.

That is why we are here. That is what stands at the very core of everything we do every day: to make a difference via print. The Hudson Printing Way is centered on the Why, How and What we do with print. Our why: We reinvent how print can make an impact for our clients. How we do it: We possess a deep expertise in print, data and digital domains. What we do: We provide a broad, ever-expanding continuum of print, data and digital services.

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“Reinvent Print.” It’s a bold statement but not one we make without conviction. If you’ve been in business for 110 years you’ve seen lots of change. The way people print, what they print and service expectations have evolved. What clients want from their printed communications, however, remains constant. 

At Hudson Printing the reinvention of print is less about the tools and more about how we think. There are so many options for solving client communication objectives today it’s easy to get hung up in the weeds. Truthfully, the tools should matter only to us. 

If you’ve been in business for 110 years you’ve seen lots of change. The way people print, what they print and service expectations have evolved. What clients want from their printed communications, however, remains constant.

Our focus needs to be—and is all about client objectives. If that is our thought process, the tools and workflow will become apparent. Clients drive innovation, investment, direction and necessary skill sets. Technology is a response, not a cause. It doesn’t create vision; it provides a path. Technology enables progress.

Print, combined with digital connectivity makes instant responses possible. Today, audiences can receive a printed piece in the mail. It can be a publication, catalog, direct mailer or a donation request. As the piece does its job, the receiver can step to a computer or pick up their smartphone and respond. Activity can be instant. That’s power.

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We happen to be leaders in traditional and digital print innovation. Our team is connected to the worlds of healthcare, education, manufacturing, entertainment, memory preservation, real estate, automotive, direct selling, government and others. We answer to a diverse and loyal client base with magazines, direct mail, catalogs, photo products and collateral, but we also manage print on demand solutions.

Hudson Printing clients have the option of automated workflows connecting their idea to presses and distribution with the click of a mouse. The answer, regardless of the path, is driven by customer preference and objectives. What we do and how we do it—Reinventing Print is client inspired. 

We think this makes it an exciting time to be in print. If we’re honest, we can say yes to more than we ever have before. So much is possible. Printing can be more personal, but it can also be more informed. We know more about audiences and we can share what works. Working as strategy partners with clients, we can help them be more successful and their communication dollar more effective. 

Reinvent Print has nothing to do with machinery or manufacturing processes. It has to do with making each printed piece more effective for the customer. It’s what makes us valuable—relevant.

Adopt. Learn. Repeat. 

There have been plenty of twists and turns along the way. There have been missteps and more than once we’ve pressed the reset button. New directions don’t reveal their obstacles up front. When you set out to make changes you wind up inventing solutions on demand.

Our company started in 1909 as Stevens & Wallis Inc. We were publishers and an agency of sorts. Many of the rare and interesting books on early Utah and her people were produced by Stevens & Wallis Inc.

In 1948 my father, Blaine Hudson, applied for a photo lithographer position with Utah Bank Note Company. He wasn’t qualified but impressed (Vaughn Young) the gentleman hiring. He was added that day as a janitor and truck driver. 

My father left his position at Utah Bank Note Co., along with his boss who was buying Stevens and Wallis Inc., in 1952. In 1972 Blaine purchased the company from Vaughn Young and renamed it Blaine Hudson Printing. My brother, Mark, and I bought the company and renamed it Hudson Printing in 1992.

LeadingPRINT | Stay the Course
(L-R) Hudson Printing CEO Paul Hudson and Summit Sotheby’s International Realty CMO Tiffany Fox celebrate a press check.

In 2012, I purchased my 15-year-older brother’s part of the business and became the sole owner of Hudson Printing. Before then, I had been making a lot of noise about changing the dynamic of our company and developing a “digital” part of the business to complement the web-offset side. My brother, who had little appetite for new investments and risks, did not agree. 

LeadingPRINT | Stay the Course
(L-R) Mike McEvoy, VP Business
Development Hudson Printing. Tiffany Fox, CMO Summit Sotheby’s International Realty. Paul Hudson, CEO Hudson Printing. Bill Gillespie, Business Consultant

So, we made a deal. Once I had the opportunity to do my own thing, I set out building a digital business. Salt Lake City was filled with digital printing talent, so what could go wrong?

For starters, I underestimated the degree of difficulty it took to build a technological foundation—little things like on-going software engineering needs, job communication requirements and the time it took to actually develop a new business. 

After an early misstep into the world of web-fed inkjet technology (I was wrong again), we added a fleet of Indigo presses into our digital department. Overall, the experimenting ended up being a very expensive lesson. It was like starting over in the areas of workflow and business development. The whole process ended up taking several years, eventually detracting from the financial performance of the whole business. We certainly survived this struggle and even prospered but it was an expensive journey for a while.

I admit it—I never made a decision that I didn’t believe was the right one at the time. But the truth is we all make mistakes. In the end, there are two important lessons to dwell on: Don’t wait too long to correct the course of your actions and surround yourself with good people. 

Longevity teaches you things. It doesn’t guarantee a future, but it does equip you for the road ahead.

Parting Shots: Longevity teaches you things. It doesn’t guarantee a future, but it does equip you for the road ahead. Never stop learning. Never stop trying to make things better. Never stop asking what’s next. Never turn a blind eye to trends but focus on what motivates them. Don’t get hung up in the tools, focus on the goals. Take the risk of connecting the dots.

Paul Hudson is owner and CEO of Hudson Printing in Salt Lake City. Founded in 1909, Hudson Printing is one of the most trusted, high-quality commercial printers in North America. The Certified G7 Master Printer delivers quality printed solutions ranging from catalogs, books, and magazines, to brochures, booklets, postcards and direct mail.