Home' FLEXO Magazine : September 2016 Contents all improved and offer a multitude of opportunities for packaging
FLEXO: What have you personally had to do to keep up with the
evolution of package printing?
Bell: I created a succession plan in 1994 and essentially went from an
entrepreneurial business to one that is professionally managed by my
president/CEO, Karl Schmidt, and his wonderful staff of employees
who are skilled at running the business within this competitive indus-
try. I learn from them as they excel and participate in all aspects of the
ongoing evolution in package printing.
FLEXO: How does it feel to be recognized with the R. Stanton Avery
Lifetime Achievement Award?
Bell: This is a very humbling experience to be included with so
many highly qualified previous winners who have made outstanding
contributions to our industry. I am deeply honored and thankful to
God, who has blessed me with my loving and supporting wife, family,
friends, advisors, customers and our wonderful, loyal and dedicated
employees who have made all this happen. I feel they should be the
ones being recognized.
FLEXO: What did you do before opening Belmark?
Bell: I was an NROTC graduate from Miami University in 1957 with
a B.S. in marketing. My first job was when I reported for duty aboard
the USS Des Moines CA-134, which eventually became the 6th Fleet
Flagship in the Mediterranean. After the Navy, my wife Carol and I
moved to Chicago, Green Bay, Middletown, Ohio and Kansas City.
My experience in sales, product management and other areas of mar-
keting provided a good platform for kicking off a new business.
FLEXO: What are some memories of Belmark’s early days?
Bell: Economic conditions in the late 1970s were terrible. Interest
rates got up to 21 percent and unemployment, I think, got up to 11
percent! This caused inflation and almost weekly price increases for
my new customers—which they fought vigorously!
Initially, money had to be raised to finance the business and fortunate-
ly I had a supportive banker, mother and mother in law. I remember
to help cover startup costs, my wife volunteered to sell real estate, my
daughter needed knee surgery which wasn’t covered by insurance, and
the Honda Civic I was driving was so uncomfortable I began to have
I formed a board of advisors right from the start. Being gracious,
they asked me what we were going to talk about without any sales.
That soon changed as we discussed the best way to correct my back
problems would be to find another car! Actually, my board was very
supportive, encouraging and helpful, and has been to this very day.
Some of the early memories were 70 hour work weeks and time away
from my family. I remember some of the greatest challenges for our
team revolved around having enough time to run the business and
still be able to talk to customers. Specifically, the challenges were
generating customer sales, finding good people and having the time to
make our administration happen efficiently.
FLEXO: What are some important milestones in Belmark’s history?
Bell: There have been many : Getting my first order, breaking even,
hiring good people, growing out of our startup building, regional
sales, national sales, computer introduction, succession plan, move-
ment from entrepreneurial to managerial organization, expansion
into film and cartons, building expansions and printing technologies.
FLEXO: Where has the flexo market gone in your career?
Bell: From rubber plates (we started with polymer) to polymer.
Flexography has gone from pretty good printing to excellent printing,
rivaling gravure and offset in quality.
FLEXO: Is the concern over a younger generation that is potentially
less interested in flexography warranted?
Bell: I would say no to a concern about younger folks having less
interest in flexography. Today there are excellent opportunities in
flexography and other related areas of printing. Their education would
be incomplete without understanding the growth and future of this
method of printing. It is up to our industry participants (educators,
suppliers, converters, associations, etc.) to educate the younger gener-
ation about these opportunities.
FLEXO: What’s one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting
out in the industry today?
Bell: Study the industry well, select an area of interest, and be willing
to work very hard to contribute and make things happen. Progress
will require an incredible sacrifice of time. Be aware of costly and
restrictive governmental regulations and requirements, a punitive tax
code, and permit restrictions. All of this governmental control kills
startups. I’d like to see our industry come back to the more entrepre-
neurial and capitalistic spirit that was prevalent when I started. n
Bruce will be receiving the R. Stanton Avery Lifetime Achievement
Award at the Label Awards, happening Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Rose-
mont Theatre. Learn more at www.labelawards.com.
24 FLEXO | SEPTEMBER 2016
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