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08.25.15

The Culture Club (Sheridan’s Not-so-secret Secret to Success)

The Sheridan Press: A Century StrongOur founding company is more than halfway through its Centennial year and there is so much to celebrate that it’s hard to know how to unpack it all.

Perhaps the best place to start is to acknowledge that we didn’t get to this birthday by accident.

Our 1915 Hanover, PA origins began with a wealthy community pillar who, in addition to having had a hand in establishing local schools, the hospital, the library, the newspaper, and running his own businesses, decided to create a magazine about breeder chickens, a topic on which he was both passionate and well-versed. His magazine – Everybodys (sic) Poultry Magazine – was in circulation from 1915 to 1968, and almost overnight gained a global subscriber base in the 200,000s. This was in the days of the letterpress process – anyone with a background in print has to be impressed. The business did well, and other publications were produced at Everybodys. When Champ Sheridan came on the scene in 1961 as a young Marylander whose family was in the print business, he wanted to make his mark in an industry he knew and loved, but as his own man. Within a few years of working at Everybodys, he achieved the status of President, and scraped up $1000 to purchase the business. He and his employees bought a parcel of land in the midst of cornfields, broke ground, and built the structure that remains in operation today. He renamed it The Sheridan Press in 1982, which also marked a significant shift in the business strategy from producing entrepreneurial special interest publications to printing scientific, technical, and medical journals. That pivotal decision set the stage for a solid and meaningful future for Sheridan.

There were principles instilled back in those early days that flourish today, and they are the reason we continue to thrive.

As an interviewee many years ago, I spent the better part of two days talking with each department head, and watching the employees go about their jobs as I moved from offices to conference rooms. Those observations left me with one very strong impression. Every person I saw, whether in a pressman’s shirt or a suit, was happy, focused, approachable, sharing an interest in the work being done in the plant. They were interacting on a common level.

Management at The Sheridan Press is a group activity. The Communications Team includes every manager on every shift in the company. They read management books together, strategize together, and participate in team-building exercises together.

Monthly meetings yield vital information for managers to take back and share with their departments – detailed updates on production, P&Ls, costs as a percent of sales, corporate performance, sales wins, proposals in the works, work at risk, upcoming customer and prospect visits, safety updates and demonstrations, benefits updates, and planned employee events.

Quarterly, the president shares the same detailed information with each and every employee, whether part-time, full-time, or intern. Every meeting includes ample time to ask questions and get answers. Discussions are encouraged. Transparency is a given. Employees are empowered.

Information is the name of the game, and more information means more employees who understand and buy in to company goals. As our current president likes to say, we all need to be in the boat and paddling together to win.

Met goals are celebrated. Frequently. Individual achievements are recognized often. Sheridan has a habit of making work fun: food days, safety slogan contests, blood drives, theme dress days, outings, weight loss groups, and much more. Through the years, Sheridan has fostered comradery, loyalty, and a deep sense of pride in the work we do.

Call me biased, but I doubt that there are many companies that consistently uphold the level of engagement that is the backbone of Sheridan. Where else could a 2nd shift pressman, a part-timer, and a front-desk receptionist all accurately explain EBITDA or identify our biggest business challenge, reframed as a primary goal?

And that culture sets the stage for other key principles – ingenuity and innovation. With knowledge, we cultivate vision, think strategically, have the creativity and freedom to innovate, and, most important, the courage to embrace change. Several years ago, seeing seismic publishing changes on the horizon, Sheridan employees and leaders developed innovations that kept pace with the changes, from some of the industry’s first article ePrints to mobile apps, eBooks, powerful production workflows, and eCommerce for scholarly publishers. Technology and innovation at Sheridan are very often home-grown, borne from close publisher relationships and a desire to achieve a superior solution that truly fits the need. Our decision to commit significantly to digital print was another defining moment. It has allowed us to fully support our customers’ changing requirements.

We continue to define ourselves. Instead of being everything to everybody, we focus - with purpose - on an industry, learn its challenges and needs, grow with it and become part of it. We educate and empower our employees. We innovate. We celebrate change.

At 100 years, The Sheridan Press is a lively, bustling business, as focused as ever on its marketplace, and its most valuable resource – its employees.

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