Randy Radosevich is CEO of Allen Press, Inc., an innovative printing, publishing and marketing services company based in Lawrence, Kansas. Prior to joining Allen Press, Randy was the Executive Vice President of TNG Central Division, a leading publishing/periodicals distribution company in North America. He also served for more than 10 years in the United States Air Force.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?
As the grandson of an immigrant and 10-year veteran of the United States military, I believe that everything in my life has prepared me to be a CEO. After high school, I tried to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps working in the lumber industry at night while going to college during the day, but I quickly became bored of that life. Thus, I enlisted in the Air Force and was recruited to work for the Department of Defense. After my government career, I worked for TNG Central Division where I was promoted pretty fairly rapidly and became the youngest officer at the company. I attribute this early success to my life-long love for books and the growth mindset instilled in me at a young age.
After my time at TNG, I was contacted by Henry Wurst to help turnaround the company as Plant Manager. In 2016, Allen Press contacted me to take over as CEO. It was a difficult decision at the time, because I wasn’t really looking for a CEO position, but I loved the history and culture of Allen Press and wanted to help build it into an industry-leading company. As they say, the rest is history. I am coming up on my third year as CEO at Allen Press and absolutely love coming to work everyday and making a difference – either for my company and employees or for the local community.
What is your definition of success?
Success is not defined by status, money, or acquiring things. I strongly believe success is defined by the number of people you are willing to help. Throughout my life and career, I’ve given opportunities to many people who otherwise may have been overlooked. Helping these people grow, prosper, and build a better life for themselves is why I feel successful.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Allen Press has a relaxed dress code, and I typically wear jeans and a t-shirt most days. If there is an important print job running through the pressroom, you’ll often find me helping out to ensure a timely and efficient delivery. There have been times while doing this that vendors or sales reps are walking through the plant, meeting with other leaders of the executive team. The look on their faces when I’m introduced as CEO is sometimes laughable. 5-minutes ago, I was Joe Schmoe on the pressroom floor, and now I’m CEO.
It can be a bit infuriating, though, as it doesn’t matter who you are; everybody should be treated with respect, no matter the position. But the situation can also be a helpful character assessment tool, and while funny, we’ve often used the behavior of these folks as a tool for evaluating potential vendors and partners.
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
Something I’ve learned throughout my career is that opportunity cost is a real thing. Nothing good comes from being too slow, waiting to act, or being unwilling to take risks out of fear of failure. I’ve been guilty of avoiding decisions that would be considered unpopular. But I’ve learned over time that fear is a natural part of the decision making process, even when the decision is the right thing to do.
I also firmly believe in progress over perfection. I don’t look at things as failures. I see them as opportunities that have lead us to where we are today. I’ve failed many times in my life, but I can only learn from the mistakes, move on, and try to do better the next time.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Allen Press is well known for innovation. Over the past few years, we’ve added a suite of new equipment and technology that positions us as one of the most advanced and versatile printers in the industry. Additionally, we have recently launched an in-house marketing agency that provides services and expertise in creative development and graphic design, digital marketing, and campaign management. We feel this combination of print and marketing services really sets us apart in the marketplace and adds efficiencies and value that many competitors simply can’t match.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Saddle stitching is a primary binding technique for a variety of printed materials including magazines, publications, booklets, annual reports, and catalogs. We are currently installing a new saddle stitcher called the Muller Martini Tempo 22 Saddle Stitcher, which is the fastest saddle stitcher in the world. The machine can produce 22,000 booklets per hour, which is approximately 2 to 3 times faster than other models. The Tempo 22 is a pretty rare piece of equipment, and there are only a handful of similar binding machines in the US. This project is exciting because it further positions Allen Press as one of the most versatile and innovative commercial printing companies in the country. We’ve been aggressively embracing advanced technologies and adding software solutions and systems that directly connect to our presses and print equipment. This greatly optimizes our production capabilities and allows us to more easily meet changing delivery dates.
Is your company working to be more sustainable? If so, how?
Yes, sustainability is a key factor when making business decisions and planning for the future. We will qualify and even dissociate from vendors that don’t share our commitment to sustainability and social impact. We are the largest recyclers in Lawrence, Kansas, and we recycle 100% of our byproducts. Our newest technologies adhere to strict guidelines of emission outputs, and fuel efficiencies. Furthermore, we are certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which ensures that our paper products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Establish and adhere to team values. Even though accountability can be tough at times and create some turnover, strong team values are at the core of every successful business. Our Allen Press team values are: positive attitude, team player, and gets results.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Major General Mary Kay Hertog. She is an incredible leader by every measure. Under her command, I was given opportunities to improve and even save the lives of others well beyond what my “pay grade” merited. She developed a high-performance environment. Not many military leaders would empower those with low status and at a young age to positions of great responsibility. I am forever appreciative of the opportunity she gave me to have an outsized impact. Her example as a role model and mentorship of others helped shape me as the leader I am today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve made it our company’s purpose to bring goodness to both the local community and the world. We just announced a donation to the LeBron James Family Foundation and its newly launched I Promise School. Education is so important, and low-income areas are typically hit the hardest when it comes to providing vital resources for students to flourish. We are proud to donate to this cause and support James’ vision for a better future for young, at-risk kids.
We also just announced local partnerships with the Girl Scouts of America and their new STEM program, as well as a Lawrence non-profit organization called Van Go, Inc. that provides year-round after-school and summer job-training programs to at-risk teens and young adults.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
1. No matter what, cash flow is always top of mind. I cannot even begin to relax while on vacation until reviewing the daily cash sheet.
2. In every other position imaginable you have a certain sense of built-in security. Someone or something to fall back on. Comfort in being part of a team or something bigger. But as CEO there is no one else to provide that sense of security. And you must be okay with living like that. It’s hard to fathom until you are put in that spot.
3. Your primary role is bringing about a better future for the company. If you don’t prepare your company for the future, then you’ve failed. In order to make that happen you must become really good at instigating a state of constant change and accelerating it throughout your organization.
4. You have to be more hands-off on day-to-day projects and tasks. At times, I miss solely focusing on bringing out the best in a project or operation. Even some of the more routine tasks such as analyzing spreadsheets, physically producing a job in the pressroom, or leading small teams on a daily basis. I do get more functionally involved as needed but most of my time goes to overseeing strategic vs. tactical execution. However, my favorite place is being on the plant floor in the pressroom, and I still walk the plant floor multiple times a day.
5. Selecting your senior leadership team is critical. Even if you identify those with superior intelligence and the skills necessary, if they are timid, lack chemistry, or have low stamina, you won’t be able to get much done.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Fixing the gender pay gap is long overdue. Ask your HR team or hire a 3rdparty to analyze and then immediately make the necessary adjustments. There is no excuse for not doing so. Furthermore, promote more women. Look at the Allen Press team page for example. Not just equity in pay but in number of executives, as well. In fact, at the highest level of our company, we have two women SVPs and one male SVP. This includes Julie Rinke as our SVP of Operations, which is very uncommon in the male-dominated print industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be an encourager, the world has enough critics already.”
Distance yourself from negative people. We all know by now that life is full of ups and downs, but you must always make the best of every situation. To do so, you must surround yourself with those who have positive energy. Otherwise, life will be difficult and challenging more often than not, and you will never realize your full potential.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this
LeBron James – hands down. He is an accomplished leader and champion who overcame adversity and is someone I look up to. Even though we aren’t the largest company, we just donated to the I Promise School, which was started by his Foundation. I was blown away after learning more about the school (especially being a public school) and wanted to help raise awareness and get involved, as it perfectly aligns with our team values, social impact statement, and what I want to accomplish as CEO. Through our donation, we were given a game-worn LeBron James shoe that is displayed in our conference room. The matching shoe is displayed at the I Promise School with the Allen Press name beside it. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this amazing initiative and hope our donation has a lasting impact.