He may have learned to be a fair boss in Hong Kong, but it is in the United States that Wil Poon partnered with Minuteman Press International to lead his dedicated team.
Wil Poon had a wonderful father AND a horrible boss before he emigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1985 to buy a printing business – and both roles were played by the same man. He worked for his dad in a battery manufacturing company early in his career and as his nature has always been to absorb experiences and translate them into wisdom, he learned how to be a benevolent and approachable boss.
Wil did not know at the time that this was his destiny, along with his wife, Monique. “I worked for my dad in a big factory with 2,000 workers and he was the worst boss in the world! He was a fantastic dad but a distant and unapproachable boss. He lost his temper often and all the employees were afraid of him and so there were hardly any communication between him and the employees. I learned a lot about how to be a better boss from working for him,” Wil shares.
It was when it seemed that Hong Kong was headed towards a return to rule under communist China that Wil and Monique took the degrees they earned through American University and Syracuse University and decided to make the U.S. their permanent home. Wil reflects on that time, “We moved here in the summer of 1984, went to a franchise show and explored so many different types of franchises. We both had experience dealing with printers and ordering printing in our previous jobs, so we knew something about the industry and it seemed interesting. Minuteman Press International was there at the show and of the things that kept us interested, the royalty cap they provide to their owners was really attractive.”
The Poon family elected to purchase an existing Minuteman Press marketing and printing franchise in 1985 whose owner at the time was not bringing the business to its full potential. “The owner who had the center before us was a pretty high-level Kodak executive at one time and he bought the franchise after retirement, but was not following the system and sold after a year. He had problems with production, sales and employees as a result. After we came back from training at corporate, I led production and Monique led sales,” Wil says.
Wil and Monique knew that with the franchise training and support provided by Minuteman Press International, they could add their own hard work and wisdom into a new approach that would turn the operation into a success. Today, their digital print, design and marketing center in Glendale, California, has a robust client base and an excellent reputation as well as long-term employees who simply cannot imagine working for any other company.
“We hired a full-time counterperson and a press operator, but the quality he produced was not up to our standards and we needed to look further. We knew we needed to do better for our customers, but just as we were to begin our search for a more skilled press operator, into our center walked Gustavo and he asked to be hired,” Wil adds. “I always chat informally with potential hires to put them at ease and get to know them. During that chat, it was clear he had impressive printing knowledge. At the time, we were having a lot of trouble running coated work on a Multi 1250 offset press that didn’t have a chain delivery and when we hired him, he had us put in the chain delivery and got to work for us, producing high quality work. From there, over 30 years, Monique and I would talk to Gustavo after consulting with clients so he could interpret the technical angles of projects.”
Gustavo Lizarra is now 61 years old, but he began his career in the printing industry when he was only 17 years old, in Tijuana, Mexico, working for an American company. The father of three spent his career as a loyal employee of Minuteman Press and has this to share, “I did not choose printing; it chose me. I most enjoy the fact that I am not doing the same thing over and over again. The variety of tasks we have to do in our center makes the day go much faster and the job much more fun. Working many years for Minuteman Press in a relaxed atmosphere with accommodating bosses like Wil and Monique as my life goes through changes makes me grateful. I care about my job and it gets noticed, making it much more rewarding.”
“The culture at our center has always been relaxed, getting things done but doing it together. I hire people who will appreciate that I am not a micromanager and I let them have their responsibilities and speak up if they have ideas. There is no fear, here. We talk about everything going right and challenges to overcome.” – Wil Poon
Gustavo spent many years loyal to Wil and Monique as they filled creative and print niches of the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s. He followed their lead as they incorporated technology upgrades to stay ahead of the demands from people and businesses who rely upon the printing industry. “As the earlier days had a market for short-run, four-color work on our new Heidelberg that larger companies ignored, we provided that service and our press operator made sure the print quality was the best. Over time, as Gustavo became more of a production manager, we added another employee, Enrique Correa, to run the press. After 20 plus years, Enrique is still producing very high quality work for us, although in a part-time position.” With the evolving digital era, Minuteman Press added Xerox and Konica Minolta machines to service that aspect of the business.
Minuteman Press evolves and loyal employees evolve with this unmatched leader in marketing services as the increased demands of a modern printing audience seeks more ways to promote themselves. Will continues, “For instance, customization using variable data printing and direct mail have become demonstrated benefits to business growth and our team has the capacity to provide it. In fact, we have a great relationship with another Minuteman Press center in Panorama City, CA. Their owners, Kevin and Pam Berg, handle large quantities of direct mail and we enjoy cooperating with them as we design and print the campaigns, then team up with them for the mailing.”
Gustavo is not the only person feeling at home as a long-term employee of Minuteman Press. Mark Braun has been with Wil and Monique at their center in Glendale since 1991 and while he technically “takes care of deliveries”, he also has a knack for taking care of people. As Wil says, “Mark is not the type of person to drop off completed jobs and just leave. He has the ability to connect with people and those people, our clients, send him cards because they appreciate his care. It is a facet of our business that sets us apart from other types of printers, especially those online. In fact, I actually had a customer like him so much, they tried to offer him a job and steal him!”
Mark puts high value on the relationships he has developed over the years with the clients of a company that has retained his loyalty for more than 25 years. He says, “Minuteman Press provides consistent work, fair treatment and a lot of return customers which means the business stays open. It makes me happy to make the customer happy so I always share feedback with Wil and Monique immediately so we can resolve situations and continue with good service. My employers have good business sense and take extra steps to make sure the jobs are done right and needs are fulfilled. I enjoy doing my job and will continue to play a versatile role for Minuteman Press.”
- NOTABLE QUOTE: “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey which catches your heart, which, say what he will, is the highroad to his reason.” – Abraham Lincoln
Wil reflects on his journey as a manager, adding, “As a boss, one of the things I learned is never to scream and shout – as my Dad did in that role. We talk. No one wants to make a mistake and I make it clear we are in the business of solutions, so there is no fear in our center when it comes to addressing situations that need to be fixed. Monique and I are present every day and everyone feels they can talk freely which makes sharing ideas and learning from mistakes possible.”
For Wil and Monique, leaving employment in Hong Kong for entrepreneurship in the United States meant improving their own lives and enriching those of employees and clients, both longstanding and new. They found just the right partner in Minuteman Press International to meet that aim, running their franchise in Glendale, CA with compassionate leadership that breeds loyalty. “Long-term employees like Gustavo and Mark bring stability to our business and that positively impacts all of our clients. These guys do not miss work and I feel to gain that loyalty you need to treat people well. They depend on me for a paycheck, but we are also careful to treat them as part of the Minuteman Press family.”