A Chance Encounter
Don Reid was 18 years old and waiting tables when a visit to a local print shop changed his career trajectory.
Reid had been working at a restaurant in his native Sacramento after graduating from high school, but after a year there he knew it wasn't the right industry for him. One day he was sent to Sierra Copy & Printing, a local print shop, to drop off a job. There, an enticing opportunity presented itself.
"Somebody mentioned that they needed somebody to help out," Reid recalls, "so I told them I'll work there for a week for free, and if it doesn't work out then they can let me go."
Now a 26-year veteran of the printing industry and the supervisor of Printing Services for American River College, Reid has never looked back.
He quickly rose through the ranks at his first print employer, eventually leading the art department. He spent five years there before he got his first taste of life in an in-plant.
The San Juan Unified School District, which encompasses about 100 schools in the Sacramento area, sought someone to manage its in-plant's prepress department and produce some graphic design work. Reid took the job and soon discovered that in-plants operate a bit differently from independent print shops. Though he wasn't managing this in-plant, Reid did spend a great deal of time talking with vendors and learning how in-plants go about purchasing equipment.
"I got hands-on experience dealing with vendors that were trying to sell stuff to us and figuring out who was going to make a better deal," Reid recalls. "I started to understand about the whole pricing copiers thing, which isn't easy. They don't speak apples and apples. [My manager] gave me a first-hand look on how to manage an in-plant, how to evaluate equipment, how to purchase and how to negotiate deals."
But it wasn't just vendors who would stop by Reid's office when he worked for San Juan. Because the shop was on the cutting edge of digital printing, other in-plant managers would visit to check it out. This included the outgoing manager at American River College who had been there for 35 years.
Reid says she stopped by a few times to talk shop and eventually informed him of her retirement and said she thought he'd be perfect for the job. She said she'd put in a good word if Reid decided to apply.
Tentatively, Reid did submit an application, but did not expect to be considered for the position since it required a bachelor's degree. Not surprisingly, Reid says, he was initially turned down. But after some additional prodding from the previous manager, the school decided to change the job description to allow for years of industry experience in lieu of a degree. Reid applied again, this time with a much different result.
"By this point they had gone through 100 applicants and they interviewed me in this great big panel interview," Reid remembers. "They narrowed it down to three people to interview with the president and the vice president and they chose me."
A Little Help From his Friends
When Reid first arrived at American River College, he found the staff was enthusiastic, but could benefit from learning some new techniques. Many had been at the college for a significant amount of time, but none had worked in any other print shops.
The employees had all trained each other and had only ever used the equipment at ARC, diminishing the amount of services the in-plant could provide.
"They didn't know about adjusting for paper thickness," Reid says. "They just kind of taught themselves. Everything was gray and usually really blown out."
To help bring everyone up to speed, Reid called on a few friends from his past print jobs and reached out to some neighboring community college in-plants. With their help, Reid's staff was able to gain some new perspective and see how other shops operate.
While training can improve a staff, the same can't be said for old equipment. Drawing from his experience at San Juan, Reid was able to quickly identify equipment that needed to be phased out at ARC. He says his ability to identify major
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