Vernon Goodner: An Unintended, Eventful Journey
Not everyone knows the career path they want to take, and sometimes, for those that do, the journey can take unexpected routes. Such is the case for Vernon Goodner, Print Services manager at Orgill Inc., whose road to becoming an architect not only introduced him to what would become a long-term career in printing, but also to his future wife.
Born in Denver, Goodner received his associate’s degree in drafting and design from Mid-Plains Vocational School (now Mid-Plains Community College) in Nebraska, where most of his family is from. It was the need to reproduce blueprints that led him to the school’s print shop.
“The guy running the place said, ‘As long as you’re here, do you want to learn the dark room and learn the press?’ So, I started working in their dark room and running the little two-color press they had,” Goodner shares.
After graduating, he returned to Denver and went back to school when he was unable to find a job in drafting. Wanting to earn money, he saw an ad for a local print company, Hoffman and Associates, seeking someone with a drafting background to make plates and work in the dark room. He started working as a lithographer and stayed with the company for eight years.
Though he took a hiatus from printing to start a dairy business in the middle of Nebraska with his cousin, he ultimately took a part-time job with Maverick Media, which produced a weekly ad newspaper called “Penny Press.” There, he did all the prepress, camera work, and platemaking. It was also through this job that he met his wife, Terri, who was attending school while working as a typesetter.
The couple moved to Memphis, Tennessee, for Terri to pursue her master’s degree, and there Goodner found a job with Lithograph Printing, a commercial shop that specialized in web and sheetfeed. While he managed the prepress department and ran the cadograph, he segued into the customer service, prepress estimating, purchasing, and billing aspects of the business.
Laid off due to a company reorganization, Goodner relied on a picture-framing business he had at the time, along with a couple other side jobs. Though he and Terri were making ends meet, Goodner says, “health insurance was killing us.” It was then he found Orgill Print Services, in Memphis.
A Change of Pace
Goodner joined Orgill in 2006 when his manager was moving into the director role to focus more on data publishing work. For Goodner, the in-plant was a much-needed change of pace from his commercial printing jobs.
“It was so much more laid back than the commercial world for me,” he reflects. “We set our own destiny; we decide what we’re going to do, when we’re going to do it, and how we’re going to do it,” he says. “I was kind of glad to be out of the commercial world just because of the hectic pace that it was at that time.”
As a hardware distributor, Orgill has been in business for 175 years serving retailers throughout the United States, Canada, and more than 50 other countries. It was this longevity that also stood out to Goodner.
“That’s another thing I really liked — Orgill was so stable, doing the same thing for a long time,” he explains.
But in his role, Goodner has watched the company, and his operation, continue to grow.
“When I came here, they had just [reached] their first billion in sales,” he says. “Now we’re at $3.5 billion, but within another two years, we’re hoping to be right at $5 billion.”
Transition to Digital
When he started with Orgill Print Services, he says it was an offset department just starting to go digital.
“That was part of my task, to come in and move it to fully digital,” adds Goodner. The operation’s primary product is its catalog, which he says had 3,600 subscribers when he first joined the company.
“The catalog had nine different sections we were constantly updating,” he says, noting the in-plant would produce the catalog every other week. As the book needed to be hand collated, Goodner says 15 people were needed at the time between duplicating, collating, and bindery.
The production, however, progressed with the addition of digital technology. While Goodner says the in-plant had a couple of Xerox machines, acquiring two Canon VarioPrint presses enabled the team to shut down its duplicators and eventually no longer need the collators. Though running the equipment required slightly extending hours, the shop was able to produce the catalog on the same schedule.
With its upgraded machines, Print Services can also produce what the team calls “truck mail,” a weekly kitting of vendor flyers and other sales literature that gets put in an envelope and sent out the same way as the catalogs.
With the streamlined workflow, Print Services is now a team of five. It continues to expand, not just in its offerings, but the space it occupies. Goodner says there are plans to double the in-plant’s 6,000 sq. ft. in the next year. While the in-plant is not producing as much catalog work today, Goodner is focusing on the growing wide-format business, as the in-plant produces retractable banners and other signage for the company’s hardware show and live events, as well as custom aisle signs, doorbuster signage, shelf promos, and tags for Orgill’s hardware stores.
While he is in the process of installing a Canon Colorado wide-format printer, Goodner is also looking at a laminator and X/Y cutters to complement the machine, budget pending. Long-term, he hopes to add a flatbed printer and a CNC machine before he retires.
Successes and Challenges
While Goodner considers transitioning the operation’s technology and improving its workflow to be significant achievements as a manager, he feels assembling such a terrific team is the real success. He points to their willingness to go the extra mile and their flexibility in what can be a challenging environment: working with customers across the country and in differing time zones.
For Goodner, it’s important to ensure his employees are made aware of positive customer feedback, while also showing appreciation through monthly luncheons and holiday gift cards. Always intrigued and wanting to stay up to date on the latest technology and changes in the industry, Goodner — a PRINTING United Alliance member who also attends In-plant Printing and Mailing Association Zoom meetings — brought an employee to the recent PRINTING United Expo in Las Vegas.
And though he can’t fault those members of his team that have moved on to other opportunities, it has not been an easy feat to replace them. “My biggest challenge is finding employees that have an interest in the business,” he says. “I’ve found plenty of people that just want a job.”
In his free time, Goodner, who played water polo growing up, enjoys woodworking and picture framing.
“I unfortunately haven’t had a lot of time in the past few years, [but] one of my retirement goals is to get back into some of that,” he says. He and Terri also enjoy taking small trips, including day excursions to the mountains. They have a daughter who just graduated college and is a medical radiologist.
Though printing wasn’t necessarily Goodner’s end goal, it has taken him on an eventful journey, both professionally and personally. And while he has the occasional career “what if” moments, “meeting my wife had set my destiny,” he says. “It’s been a rewarding career, that’s for sure.”
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