November 22, 2017
David Peterson, Managing Partner of Plastics and Flexible Packaging had the opportunity to interview Todd Blumsack, VP Business Unit Web Fed NA of BOBST Group North America. Mr. Blumsack covered background on his career, helpful advice for sales and marketing professionals, and insights on trends in the industry.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am a family person, and my favorite thing to do is spend time with my family. In my free time, I enjoy mechanical and electrical involved hobbies. I work on my boat’s engines and electronics, from a basic level to more advanced rebuild work. I also take the same approach with my home and car; wherever possible, I do the home maintenance myself while trying to teach my children what I learned from my father. Fishing and working out take the balance of my free time. I travel a great deal for work as well as work a great deal of hours, and working out is good for my physical and mental state.
What was your motivation to pursue a career in the printing industry?
The public school system I went to offered courses in all sorts of technical areas, and my first experience with photography and graphic arts fascinated me. All aspects of cameras, darkrooms, and printing press were interesting to me. I liked imagery/photography but had zero artistic abilities. The graphic arts field enabled me to see images come alive on the page without the need for artistic skills. My other passion was electronics and mechanics, and the ability to work with, operate, and repair the various equipment was enjoyable. I had the opportunity to go to college at R.I.T and pursue this passion. Upon graduation, I wanted to go into sales and/or marketing, but the overall market was not good at the time. I was offered a more technical position from the company I co-oped with. The position turned out to be excellent, and the company eventually offered me a sales position. From that position, I moved into marketing, sales management, and then to managing both groups.
With over 24 years of experience in marketing and sales, what would you consider to be the most important lesson learned in your career?
The most important lesson is to be open-minded and always improve my knowledge and skills in both sales and marketing. Like all else in life, sales and marketing evolve. The methods to accomplish both change and improve, and if you are not learning, you are going backwards. I believe in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – Habit 7. We all need to stop and sharpen the saw to do our jobs effectively. When we are in a profession and we are not looking to grow and improve, we are not doing ourselves and those we work with justice.
BOBST uses the phrase, “People – Knowledge and Values” to describe itself. As VP, Business Unit Web-Fed, what do you do to make sure you are exemplifying these 3 facets in your leadership style?
“People – Knowledge and Values” are important to the Bobst culture along with Trust, Respect, Passion and Performance. Everyone at Bobst does their best to live by this. I try to be there in every way for those I work with. I trust they are working hard, doing their best and then ask each one “What can I do to help you succeed?” or “How can I work on internal issues to enable you to do your job better?”. Success is a team effort, and being part of a team means WE succeed as a team. If WE have issues, WE work through the issues as a team. “I” is not a positive way to work with others. We all need to give credit to the team and not take credit for the team’s work.
What new and innovative projects are you currently working on?
Bobst Web Fed is working on promoting automation in the conventional, non-digital printing, area. We are incorporating HD Cameras and RFID technology to enable customers to setup and operate various types of conventional printing equipment easier and faster.
What trends do you expect to see in printing in the next 5 years?
Trends are both in the digital printing area and automation area. We will see more robotics and digital printing as part of the various printing solutions. I believe conventional printing will remain in the printing/packaging world, but digital will become stronger in the areas that need shorter runs or personalization. SKU proliferation will continue, as people want products more aligned with their individual needs. This will drive how printing/packaging evolves.
What is the biggest challenge you are seeing in your industry or the manufacturing industry in general?
Our industry is very manufacturing oriented. A big challenge is talent for both packaging manufacturers and suppliers to the packaging manufacturers. We need skilled talent to operate the equipment. The equipment is evolving with technology and the talent to train, install and repair the equipment is in demand. Getting the word out that the packaging industry is high tech and offers a great career needs to be spread.
What advice would you give to professionals looking to break into a successful career in sales and marketing?
Chose an industry that truly interests you. In sales and marketing, you are dealing with people and you need to relate to and understand the people and the market. If you do not posses and show real interest and passion, you will not succeed. Secondly, work very hard. I deal with individuals with varying education and experience, and what sets successful people apart from the rest is hard work.
What traits do you think define leadership?
I believe leadership should be earned, not given. As a leader, you need to show the people you work with trust, respect, passion, morals and care about those you work with. In addition, you should not expect anyone to do something you are not willing to do yourself. One final key is to admit when you are wrong or made a mistake. Nobody is perfect; I have and continue to make mistakes. I just try to learn from my mistakes.
Describe the approach you take to attracting and retaining high impact talent at BOBST.
Attracting and retaining talent is key to success. A company is nothing without the talent. Understand what the person you are trying to attract is motivated by and try and put some of those elements into the position. Some people like to travel and some do not, altered work hours, compensation elements outside of salary, and just the need to be part of a new team are some of the areas that can drive talent to your company. Finally, be honest and let the prospective employee know both the good and the not so good.
What or who has motivated and influenced you to be successful in your career? Have you had mentors?
Many people have influenced me in my career, some good and some not so good. First, would be my parents. They instilled hard work, education, and the ability to finish a day and be happy when you look in the mirror. Early on in my career, like many others, my confidence got in my way. I was put in my place early in my career, and shown the correct way to handle myself in a business environment. In the middle of my career a peer who became my mentor/manager/friend showed me how to present and build industry relationships. Lastly, a manager who became a friend, then peer gave me my first management position, helped me grow in my career and acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses’ so I could continue to improve and grow. A great mentor has the ability to tell you your strengths and weakness, and point you in a direction to improve.
Managing Partner of Plastics and Flexible Packaging