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Scott Crosby’s remarkable journey from equipment buyer to Chairman of the SGIA

At 62, and with 35 years of printing industry experience, Scott Crosby, partner and Vice President of Sales and Marketing at retail signage and display specialist Holland & Crosby Limited (Mississauga, ON), would be the first to admit that his remarkable journey to becoming Chairman of the Board of one of the most influential printing organizations in the United States (the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) was an unanticipated and somewhat surprising scenario.
“The simple truth is that when I started my education at Humber College in Toronto, I wasn’t sure where I was going,” he recalled. “I was an Equipment Buyer for Dominion Stores and was enjoying my job and career path at that time. I was seven years working at Dominion when A&P bought them out and our department was let go. I soon had four job offers plus one from my father at J.W Crosby Advertising. Actually, his offer was the worst of the bunch! I finally decided to give the graphics world a chance – but only because there was a natural break in my career. I felt I’d have a better chance of reaping the rewards of my own efforts in a small, 15-man printing operation.”

Crosby started at J.W Crosby Advertising in June of 1985 as an Inside Salesperson doing estimates and putting work into production. In less than one year, in May of 1986, he was General Manager of the entire operation. “I brought in new salespeople and in the first nine years, grew the company by double digits each year. I became a shareholder in 1990. Then we went through a merger with Holland & Neil in 1997 until I formed a new partnership with Richard Labiuk in 1999 and bought Holland & Crosby from its senior partners.”

New equipment and acquisitions

Numerous other major improvements followed under the new leadership. In 2004, they purchased the Digital Division of MP Imaging and brought digital print production in-house, while at the same time installing an Inca Columbia Turbo Digital Flatbed Press and a Vutek 3360 Roll Press. In 2008, they added North America’s first Inca Onset Flatbed Press. The following year, we installed an Inca Onset S20 that added digital white, and replaced the Vutek 3360 with a Durst 320 Roll Press. Another big move came in 2010 when they sold the company’s last piece of screen-printing equipment, effectively converting the entire operation from 100% screen print to 100% digital.

Next came significant expansion. In 2015, Holland & Crosby acquired ColorMark – a large-format POP company, and the following year moved into a larger 71,000 sq. ft. facility. That same year they installed North America’s first Inca Onset X3 Flatbed Press along with an Inca X1 Flatbed Press with white and special orange. In 2018, H&C acquired the Canadian operations of Miller Zell, along with an 80,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Woodstock, Ontario. ColorMark specialized in offset, digital and large-format printing, while Miller Zell is a leader in end-to-end retail solutions. Then early in 2019 came the biggest move of all when Holland & Crosby Limited was sold to TC Transcontinental of Montreal for an undisclosed seven-figure amount. TC Transcontinental is a leader in flexible packaging and Canada’s largest printer. “It was an ideal match for both companies,” Crosby added. “We share a common culture and have remarkable synergies. Plus, both are family-run businesses with strong roots in their respective communities.”

Reflecting on these moves, several accomplishments stand out in Crosby’s opinion. “In 1999 we managed the launch of POP materials for Star Wars Episode 1. Working with Hasbro, Lucasfilm and five different retailers, we designed, produced and distributed POP materials to five different retail chains in the same week of April, 1999. It was one of the high points in our years of operation. Transitioning the business from screen to digital also had a tremendous upside, as did acquiring ColorMark and Miller Zell.” Crosby is also confident that more successes are on the horizon for the company and its 80 employees. “Our culture here is simple – we hire amazing people to do amazing work. Everyone is empowered to say “yes” to every client request. We work hard, play hard, and have built a company where people enjoy coming to work every day and take pride in providing solutions to our clients.”

Next stop: Chairman of the Board of the SGIA

So exactly how did a Toronto-born former equipment buyer become Chairman of arguably the most influential printing organization in North America? Crosby tells Graphic Arts: “After participating in the SPIRE conferences (annual events to learn about emerging trends and where to take our businesses), I was selected to join the SGIA’s Board of Directors in October of 2011,” he recalls. “It was an honour and a great opportunity for me to give back to the association. After serving four years on its Board of Directors, I was selected to join its Executive Committee. The Executive of the SGIA is comprised of nine officers who rotate through a series of roles and responsibilities. After four years on the Executive Committee, I was installed as Chairman of the Board in October of 2019 at our Annual Meeting at the PRINTING United tradeshow in Dallas, Texas.”

In retrospect, Canadian involvement in major U.S. printing organizations is not without precedent. For example, Michael Makin was appointed President and CEO of the Printing Industries of America (PIA) on August 1, 2002. Born and raised in Montreal, Makin was also President of the Canadian Printing Industries Association (CPIA) for almost 10 years. Jeff Ekstein, President and CEO of Willow Printing Group (Concord, Ontario), has a long history of volunteering for printing organizations in Canada and the U.S. From 2007-2015 he was an Officer on the PIA Board and a member of the Executive Committee, finally serving as its Chairman from 2013 to 2014.

After eight years with the SGIA Board, Crosby fully intends to guide the organization in the right direction. “There’s been a tremendous amount of change in the Association, especially over the last four years with Ford Bowers stepping into the role of President and CEO,” Crosby pointed out. “The entire industry is changing with consolidation and convergence being at the forefront of every conversation. The launch of the PRINTING United tradeshow and acquisition of NAPCO Media have been major events that our Board of Directors have been involved with. Our role as a board is to provide guidance and support Ford’s vision of the SGIA moving forward.”

Bowers added: “When I was a printer, there were a handful of people who I could turn to, to discuss issues or gain perspective on all manner of concerns, both large and small, in running a printing operation. They were collegial, open, knowledgeable and really cared as much for my success as they did for their own. Scott is one of those. He’s a prime example of what we look for in a board member. That he is now the Chair, would not surprise anyone who really knows him.”

PRINTING United makes it mark

Ford BowersBuilt on the success of its predecessor (the annual SGIA Expo), the inaugural PRINTING United tradeshow October 23-25 in Dallas, Texas, attracted 30,000 and provided a massive, all-encompassing showcase of new technologies and products. Occupying 724,000 sq. ft., a sold-out show floor included over 680 exhibitors. At press time, pre-show registration for its 2020 event October 21 – 23 in Atlanta, Georgia had exceeded 6,000 and 75% of the 2020 show floor has already been reserved!

“Essentially, a confluence of market forces and a fortuitous partnership resulted in the rise and success of PRINTING United,” Bowers revealed. “Digital printing technology has definitely reduced the silos between what were once very separate segments of the industry. So for printers wanting to expand their products and services, it made sense to do their shopping at one, all-encompassing event. Additionally, OEMs and suppliers are now serving multiple industry segments, and tradeshow spending represents a huge portion of their marketing dollars. So a more consolidated tradeshow schedule was of great benefit financially. That’s the backdrop. The rest was simply finding the right partner to help out. SGIA traditionally has served the wide-format graphics, apparel and industrial segments. We needed a partner with an audience in the commercial, packaging and in-plant segments – and that was definitely NAPCO Media. Our shared vision made it possible to create an event that the market had been demanding for several years. Exhibitors and printers alike have embraced PRINTING United, and that’s been the reason for its growth.”

Of course, Crosby will continue to support Bowers’ vision of the SGIA moving forward. At the same time, he’ll also continue in his role with the new company – TC Transcontinental Holland & Crosby – based on the core values of his family business. That’s not surprising, considering the importance he places on family. He’s been married to his “soul mate” Sharon for over 37 years. The couple has four adult children (twin boys 34 and two daughters 31 and 29) and three (soon to be four) grandsons. Between his family, his company and the SGIA, Crosby will be very, very busy. But if history is any indication, he’ll also be very, very successful.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.