Category Archives: Leadership

Merit Badge Day at the Museum

One Hundred Boy Scouts descended upon the International Printing Museum in Carson California Saturday, August 13th, to earn two merit badges; Pulp & Paper and Graphic Arts.  Thanks to over 20 museum and industry volunteers the boys made paper, silk screened t-shirts, and printed cards that they designed that day.


Ten groups of ten boys rotated every half hour to various stations set up around the museum property in order to pass the requirements for the two merit badges.  On the museum grounds volunteers helped the boys blend pulp which was then poured onto wire frames allowing each boy to take home the paper they made.


Boys also silk screened their own commemorative Merit Badge Day T-shirt while volunteers taught the boys about various bindery methods in order to fulfill that requirement for the graphic arts merit badge as well as how to identify the various types of printing they run across at home and at school.


Since the first Merit Badge Day on May 7th 2011 over 2,000 boys have been exposed to the graphic arts and paper industry at the International Printing Museum.  Mark Barbour, curator of the museum, Dan Freeland, museum chairman, and I came up with the idea to host a merit badge day in order to promote paper making and the graphic arts to a generation of kids raised on iPads and cell phones.  This was during a time when funding was cut in the education system for printing programs.


Fewer and fewer boys are learning about the printing and paper industries and we thought there might be a desire among the boy scouts to learn while earning a merit badge.  I contacted the Boy Scout National Office back then and learned that the Graphic Arts and Pulp and Paper Merit Badges were among the least popular of all the merit badges boys can earn.  When my son was in scouts, I remembered that Merit badge days were popular among boys seeking rank advancement. At the same time Mark had been working on a way to get the Boy Scouts more involved with the museum so we came up with the idea of creating a Merit Badge Day.

When asked why they signed up, one boy from Orange County said he had always been interested in Printing and this sounded “Cool”.  Another boy said he liked engineering and he thought a job in this industry might be interesting.  A third scout said he was there because his friend decided to come and he liked the chance to make something by hand.

Because of the Merit Badge Day, the Printing Museum now has a steady stream of new visitors, the Boy Scouts now have a way to learn about our industry while earning two merit badges, and the printing industry is once again educating a group of smart and engaged boys who will soon enter the workforce. Now thousands of boys are learning about the careers and benefits of the graphic arts and paper industries.



“Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”Sam Walton

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”John Quincy Adams

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.”Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”Ken Blanchard

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”Vince Lombardi

“Throughout my years in business, I tried to always ask why we would do what we were doing the things we did.. The answers that I would invariably get are: ‘Oh, that’s just the way things are done around here.’ Nobody knows why they do what they do. Nobody thinks very deeply about things in business”. – Steve Jobs

All the great inspiring leaders and organizations in the world, whether it’s Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers, all think, act and communicate the exact same way. And it’s the complete opposite to everyone else.

Why is Apple so innovative? Year after year, after year, they’re more innovative than all their competition. And yet, they’re just a computer company. They’re just like everyone else. They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media. Then why is it that they seem to have something different?

Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? He wasn’t the only man who suffered in pre-civil rights America, and he certainly wasn’t the only great orator of the day. Why him? And why is it that the Wright brothers were able to figure out controlled, powered man flight when there were certainly other teams who were better qualified, better funded — and they didn’t achieve powered man flight, and the Wright brothers beat them to it. According to Simon Sinek, there’s something else at play here.

Why? How? What? This little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren’t. Let me define the terms really quickly. Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent.
Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your unique selling proposition.

But, according to Sinek, very very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.

According to Simon Sinek author of “Start with Why”; If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?” “Meh.” That’s how most of us communicate. Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” Totally different, right? You’re ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.

Most people don’t know about Samuel Pierpont Langley. And back in the early 20th century, the pursuit of powered man flight was like the dot com of the day. Everybody was trying it. And Samuel Pierpont Langley had, what we assume, to be the recipe for success. Even now, you ask people, “Why did your product or why did your company fail?” and people always give you the same permutation of the same three things: under-capitalized, the wrong people, bad market conditions. It’s always the same three things, so let’s explore that. Samuel Pierpont Langley was given 50,000 dollars by the War Department to figure out this flying machine. Money was no problem. He held a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian and was extremely well-connected; he knew all the big minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could find and the market conditions were fantastic. The New York Times followed him around everywhere, and everyone was rooting for Langley. Then how come we’ve never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?

A few hundred miles away in Dayton Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright, they had none of what we consider to be the recipe for success. They had no money; they paid for their dream with the proceeds from their bicycle shop; not a single person on the Wright brothers’ team had a college education, not even Orville or Wilbur; and The New York Times followed them around nowhere.

The difference was, Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll change the course of the world. Samuel Pierpont Langley was different. He wanted to be rich, and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result. He was in pursuit of the riches. And lo and behold, look what happened. The people who believed in the Wright brothers’ dream worked with them with blood and sweat and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck. They tell stories of how every time the Wright brothers went out, they would have to take five sets of parts, because that’s how many times they would crash before supper.

And, eventually, on December 17th, 1903, the Wright brothers took flight, and no one was there to even experience it. We found out about it a few days later. And further proof that Langley was motivated by the wrong thing: The day the Wright brothers took flight, he quit. He could have said, “That’s an amazing discovery, guys, and I will improve upon your technology,” but he didn’t. He wasn’t first, he didn’t get rich, he didn’t get famous, so he quit.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.

In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the mall in Washington to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations, and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. In fact, some of his ideas were bad. But he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause, and they made it their own, and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day at the right time to hear him speak.

How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed, and it wasn’t about black versus white: 25% of the audience was white.
Dr. King believed that there are two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by men. And not until all the laws that are made by men are consistent with the laws made by the higher authority will we live in a just world.
It just so happened that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed, not for him, but for ourselves. By the way, he gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech.

Listen to politicians now, with their comprehensive 12-point plans. They’re not inspiring anybody. Because there are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win” “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”John F. Kennedy

“Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.”Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.”Tony Blair

“When Mexico sends its people … they are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime and their rapists.” “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” “The point is, that you can never be too greedy.” “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” “The line of ‘Make America great again,’ the phrase, that was mine, I came up with it about a year ago, and I kept using it, and everybody’s now using it, they are all loving it. I don’t know. I guess I should copyright it.”Donald Trump

This coming November we will have the opportunity to elect our great leader for our nation,, let’s hope that a great leader will appear on the ballot for us to choose from. At this point it appears that none of the great leaders working in our companies, our service organizations, or our families are willing or able to run against the presumptive nominees. God help us.

Why did we merge?

For the past 25 years I have personally known Monte Justesen and David Overgaard.  I have always found them to be of the high moral character, honest, trustworthy, and caring individuals who work with integrity.  These values make up the culture of Stuart F. Cooper.  These are also the values that I hold dear in my life and are reflected in my organization as well.

Don Burdge, Monte Justesen, Dave Overgaard

For the last year, I have been secretly searching for a perfect fit for our firm and last October I hit gold.  Monte and Dave came to table willing to work together to make both of our companies stronger by merging together.  This gives Dave and me equal interest in the new organization while providing Monte an exit strategy from his company.

Our customers are no longer buying letterheads and envelopes as they once were.  Gradually, over the years, we have become primarily a business card printer and this merger means we will now be able to expand our product line to Burdge’s customers.  Cooper clients will be able to gain the expertise we have in our web-to-print solutions and in working with design and branding firms on corporate identity systems.

Last year when I was president of the Printing Industry Association of Southern California I learned that 10 years ago there were 38,000 printing companies in the country.  Today there are only 28,000 and that number is expected to continue to shrink.  I did not Burdge to simply shrink and fade away.  So, the other option was to find a way to offer other products and services.  This economy, as bad as it is, can offer some unique opportunities for those of us willing to look for creative solutions.  That is what Dave and I have done.

Stuart F. Cooper is in a 50,00 square foot building just 6 miles west of Burdge, just south of downtown LA, and they have plenty of room for Burdge employees.  Therefore we will be moving into their location throughout this month.  Our plan is to move each department when it is ready to go and, hopefully, by August 1st we will be moved in.   We don’t, however, plan on being in that location forever.  It is both Dave’s and my goal to move our new company back toward this business friendly area as soon as it is practical.

Arlen Alfson, Burdge plant manager for the past 22 years will still be involved in production, pre-press and IT.  Joe Lee will still be in accounting and Ruben Machado will be in customer service.  These three talented managers will be working side-by-side with their managers just as Dave and I will be working side-by-side.   Unfortunately we will not have room for every current employee.  Final decisions will be made by the end of this month.

Last month Dave and I met with the Louey/Rabino Design team.  They have agreed to create a new company name, logo and identity to take our company into the future.  We will unveil this new look and name at the end of summer.

It is important to Dave and to me that we come up with a new name.  The names Burdge and Cooper hold tremendous value to the marketplace and we do not want to lose that.  However it is very important that we create a new identity for the team of the talented individuals who we are.  Working together, under one name that will reflect the values of what we will be in the future.

Burdge and Stuart F. Cooper to Merge

LOS ANGELES, CA – July 1, 2010 – Two of Southern California’s venerable printing companies, Burdge Incorporated founded in 1923 and Stuart F. Cooper founded in 1929, announced their merger effective today.  Stuart F. Cooper is a primary supplier of engraved and printed products to law firms, accounting and consulting firms, corporations, and self-publishers while Burdge provides stationery and marketing material to corporations through a strong association with the graphic design community.

Combined, the firms will serve the printing needs of over 6,000 customers nationwide from their Los Angeles and Atlanta printing facilities.  Stuart F. Cooper acquired Atlanta based J.P. Stevens in 1997.  Stevens, founded in 1874, grew to become the South’s premier social stationery engraver and now serves the printing needs of the legal and professional community on the East Coast.

To Burdge’s client base, the merger with Stuart F. Cooper brings expertise in on-demand digital printing along with larger format six-color printing and a full bindery.  Cooper’s clients will gain the expertise Burdge has in its customized web-to-print solutions and their multi-process printing techniques.

Both firms have a reputation for producing high quality printed products, sometimes combining up to eight printing techniques on a single piece.  Products the companies produce include business cards, letterheads, envelopes, announcements, pleading paper, brochures, presentation folders, manuals, reports, directories, catalogs, books, greeting and holiday cards, personal stationery and digitally printed communications.  The printing industry has honored the two firms collectively with over 180 combined awards for printing excellence, more than any other printer in their niche.

Don Burdge, grandson of the founder of Burdge, Inc., will be the company’s president and CEO while Dave Overgaard, formally president of Stuart F. Cooper, will be the company’s chief operating officer.  Burdge graduated from USC in 1979 with a degree in public relations and after working for a short time in the advertising industry joined the family firm in the early 1980’s.  Overgaard graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1979 with a degree in Graphic Communications and has worked in the industry ever since.  Dave joined Stuart F. Cooper in 1981 and became its president in 2002.

For more information, along with details of the merger, please visit:

It’s time to Fight Back

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Howard Beale screamed those words at the top of his lungs in the 1976 movie Network out of frustration about the depression, inflation, and the oil crisis.  These days I’m “mad as hell” but about all of the dis-information about the fact that printing is dead, paper kills forests, and the Post Office is on it’s last leg.  I’m mad that we’re not doing much to stop it with the facts that print is alive, paper promotes forests, and the Post Office will be here for a very long time.

We complain about it, we hope it will stop, and we shake our heads when we hear it but what do we do about it?  We print little buck-slips that have slogans about what’s good about print and we distribute them to ourselves.  Does the expression “singing to the choir” ring any bells?  We look to the paper companies with their deep pockets to stop the bashing of our products.  We hope the postal service will step up and lobby congress for help.  We look to our trade association for an answer but even there we seem to be fighting an uphill battle.

Ben Cooper and The Print Council have started to do something about stopping the flood.  At least now there is a central location for all of the “facts” about our industry.  The facts are that we ARE a green solution, we ARE able to deliver a higher ROI to our customers, and we ARE relevant as a communications tool in this internet age.  Our problem is that we are doing a TERRIBLE job of communicating this, and we are supposed in the communication industry!

In discussing this problem with my peers in printing and paper industry there seems to be an attitude that it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to communicate our message in order to stop the flood.  Most of us ‘over 50’ think the only way to combat a trend on a scale such as this is to hire a big ad agency to make commercials to air our views.  Our own association president wanted to buy radio ads touting the value of print but soon realized that we would get so little bang for our buck that it wasn’t worth the effort.

But we shouldn’t give up, we just have to stop thinking like the old guys we are and start thinking like our kids.  In 2010 the Internet, the medium that seems to be our biggest enemy, can be our biggest ally in our fight to have our point of view heard.  We have to stop thinking that we need a big budget “Got Milk” type of campaign and start thinking like Pazazz Printing up in Montreal who made the YouTube Video called “Print’s Alive” that’s been seen by over 200,000 people so far.

But I don’t want to hire a filmmaker to make me into a YouTube star, I’m too busy running my own small business.  I don’t have time to do all the social blogging that is necessary to stop the flood of information about how bad we are.  And since we can’t afford the proper ad campaign we need to start looking at this like a political campaign.  As in politics, we have a cause and we want to influence the public; but our opposition has a cause too and they want to influence the public.  Here’s a newsflash…they’re winning.

If we start to view our problem in political terms instead of commercial terms a solution starts to appear.  There is a saying that all politics is local and, lucky for us, most printing is local too.  According to PIA in 2008 there were over 36,000 printing companies in the United States employing almost 1 million people.  Every one of those million people, and their families, has an interest to keep Print Alive.  The trick is how to call them to action and how to convince them that their action will count.  In 2007 it was proven that grass roots politics could elect a politician from Illinois with a funny name to the highest office in the land and that campaign gained steam due to the power of the internet.  I ask you, if it can happen in politics why can’t it happen with our cause?  Why can’t it start now?  Why can’t it start with you and me?

For about ten minutes a day and the price of a lunch, here’s what you can start doing today:

  1. Comment on every blog or news story that says printing or paper is bad. Linda Bishop sent me a link to a Bloomberg News article about a law firm that had decided to go “paperless” because they had a mandate to be environmentally friendly and they could market their firm more “efficiently” with email.  I took 5 minutes to write my comments on their blog stating facts I picked up from The Print Council about how they had their facts wrong.  Just like taking the time to reply to an email, you can take ten minutes to reply to a news story you disagree with.  It’s easier than you think.
  2. Subscribe to newsfeeds about printing. Google News allows you to create a custom section of their online “newspaper”.  I have one on printing so I am always getting news about printing.  Just last week a news story came up about a video game manufacturer that was doing away with their printed inserts because, as their press release stated, they wanted to “support the environment and not kill trees”.  I commented on their news release that they were not killing trees and in fact they were hurting the environment by not using paper.  I suggested that a more transparent press release might have stated that they were no longer printing their inserts because they could save a whole bunch of money, but I don’t think their audience wanted to hear that.
  3. Hire a summer intern to blog for you. There are plenty of talented kids in top journalism schools near you who know how to write, know how to blog, and just want some summer spending money.  Pay them $10.00 for every comment they post, $50.00 for every story they write about the good things you are doing, and $100.00 if they can get that story picked up in a printed version of a paper of magazine.  For about the price of a business lunch, here’s what I’d ask them to do:
    • Comment on blogs and news stories that are incorrect.
    • Email stories to us owners so we can comment on them also.  Include suggested sentences to use in our comments to make it easy for us to reply.
    • Interview our peers and us for success stories about printing and paper and post favorable news .
    • Post facts from The Print Council around the internet on a regular basis.
  4. Get your local and  national trade association to hire their own bloggers. Guess what?   There are a lot of unemployed journalists out there these days.  Newspapers across the country have been trimming their staffs for decades and there are a lot of talented writers hungry for a job.  Since very few in our industry are large enough to hire our own PR agency, why don’t we group together to hire one together?  I’m not talking about hiring a big agency and paying for suits to tell us what we want to hear, I’m talking about a posting on Craig’s list for a proven blogger to do the same thing on a local and national level.  Those of us who belong to PIA pay dues to our association, let’s put the pressure on them to use the internet to combat the mis-information out there today.  We should have a Facebook page that is a fan of printing and a fan of paper.  We should use Linkedin on a regular basis to get information to our intern bloggers.
  5. Step up and be a thought leader on today’s communications. Read “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.  Read “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott.  Read “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson.  Read what these leaders are saying about how you and I, the lone individual, can change the world one sentence at a time.
  6. Just Do It. Like one of the most successful marketing companies in the world suggests – don’t make excuses anymore, let’s Just Do It.