Dealmakers Tout Americas Print Show

New Direction partners to present new revenue ideas

“I think everybody misses that level of engagement and it is a great time to connect with some of your peers and check in with colleagues.”

– Peter Schaefer

Jim Russell and Peter Schaefer are a couple of dealmakers. They have built a wonderfully enduring reputation for their company, New Direction Partners, which has closed hundreds of M&A deals in the printing, packaging, and display graphics industries. Collectively their group has over 200 years of industry experience with transactions in aggregate exceeding $2 billion.

Prior to New Direction, Russell owned Arbor Press in Royal Oak (Detroit), Michigan. During his tenure at Arbor Press, the company was recognized as an eight-time winner of the National Association for Printing Leadership’s (NAPL) prestigious Management Plus Awards program that recognizes the best managed graphic arts companies in the country. Arbor Press was also recognized twice during Russell’s leadership as one of the 50 fastest growing printers in the U.S.

Schaefer is an experienced dealmaker with thirty years of investment banking and valuation experience. He has closed more than one hundred transactions in virtually every segment of the printing and packaging industries. In addition, Schaefer has performed hundreds of valuations for ESOPs, estate and gift tax planning and strategic planning purposes.

A funny thing happened to Russell and Schaefer over the years. While looking for great ways to put companies together, they discovered what makes good companies tick. And now they have agreed to share that knowledge at America’s Print Show in Columbus, OH on August 17-19th. So, we asked them why a couple of dealmakers would be so amped up about a new show.

Tell us a little about what you guys do?

Schaefer: Our business really has not changed since the nineties. We specialize in the printing and packaging industry. In turn, we primarily represent companies who want to sell because owners want to retire, diversify, or simply provide better services to their customer base. From time to time we represent buyers as well. And we do a great deal of valuation and consulting work, which allows us to have great depth of understanding of the overall industry.

Russell: I would agree with Peter that the business has not changed much. The people who we do it for, however, have changed a bit. Twenty years ago, we made our mark in the commercial printing segment. Today, it is much more diverse in terms of the products being produced. We have clients in wide format and large format that create banners, signage, and fabrics. Consequently, the buyers are very different now, including private equity and search funds, which have become a new segment of buyers that didn’t play a role 10 or 15 years ago. 

Are you looking forward to America’s Print Show 2022?

Russell: For sure. From everything we have seen and heard, they’ve really lined up a very diverse group of exhibitors with a variety of equipment. It looks as if they are catering to all sorts of companies and segments of the industry. More importantly, this will be a great place to learn, to see the different solutions, and engage like we have not been able to do for two years.

Schaefer: I can’t wait. We have not had a show for the industry for a couple of years. I think everybody misses that level of engagement and it is a great time to connect with some of your peers and check in with colleagues. I cannot wait to find out what everyone is up to, share some of the things that we have learned and enjoy seeing all the different capabilities.

Can you share a bit about what you will present at the America’s Print Show?

Russell: Peter and I are talking on two topics. First, we will discuss eight mega trends that are affecting the industry and the things that the printers can do to succeed and make their brand sticky. Second, we will delve into the intricacies of mergers and acquisitions. We know how different each segment of the industry can be. Whether you’re a book printer, a commercial printer or a digital printer, there are things unique to each segment. So, we think there will be some great learning opportunities for anybody that can make their way to Columbus in August.

Schaefer: We want to spend some time reiterating the idea that you cannot be afraid to reinvest in your business. We can detail how to sell your company, but we want to take some time to share what we think makes the best so good. 

What would be the biggest piece of advice that you would give an owner?

Schaefer: There are companies in our industry that are flourishing and it’s because they have not been afraid to reinvest back in the business. I’m not trying to oversimplify it; there are plenty of printers who are still troubled because of COVID and other dynamics that have happened in the industry. So, I’m not at all trying to sugarcoat it, but there are tremendous successes in our industry where they have demonstrated the courage to reinvest back in the business. 

Russell: I certainly agree with that. And I think that printers need to look at where the industry is going regarding the kind of products that have more track life and more barriers to entry. Can you take your commercial printing, and with some investment, get into folding cartons, flexo, or wide format signage? The bottom line is that you cannot go off in six or eight different directions. But you need to do some analysis and pick one that has the best chance of success over time. 

Mark Potter – CEO of Conduit Inc.

Speaker at Americas Print Show

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