A Man of Vision
FSEA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient: Glenn Hutchison
Foil & Specialty Effects Association
It all started in 1963 in Dallas, TX (where Hutchison was born and raised). Hutchison was asked to do a business associate, and friend, a favor by picking up a Franklin sales manager from the airport and entertaining him in his absence. That friend was Vance Jobe, an entrepreneur who owned several types of businesses in the printing industry, one of which was a distributorship for Peerless Roll Leaf and Franklin Machinery. The sales manager was Don Brown, the sales manager for Franklin Machinery. Hutchison told Jobe, "Sure, but I don’t know anything about these products," as he was in the insurance industry. Jobe assured Hutchison that this would not be a problem. "Glenn you don’t have to know a thing," explained Jobe. "This is just some ‘Yankee’ so just entertain him Texas-style and while you are at it, show him the office." However, visiting customers was the only thing Brown had on his mind when he arrived – and he wouldn’t be dissuaded. Dropping Brown at his hotel to check in, Hutchison went straight to Jobe’s office to try to figure out what in the world hot stamping foil was and to get a customer list.
Unfortunately, he learned that the company had no Dallas customers, just a few spread out throughout the state. In a panic, he went to the back and grabbed a little desktop stamper and started to try to figure out the process. He stamped a plastic sample and figuring out that it wasn’t so hard, he stamped a few more. "Hey, this is pretty neat. How hard can it be to sell," thought Hutchison. Realizing that the stamped samples resembled hotel key tags, he ripped the hotel section from the phone book and returned for Brown with stamped samples, a few tabletop machines, and now, a ‘customer list’ in hand. The two men made sales calls all day to local hotels. Hutchison had taken five machines and by dinnertime, all were sold! He thought to himself, "Shoot, this isn’t so hard, I can make a lot of money selling these things - there are still pages in the phone book that I haven’t hit." It wasn’t until later that he found out that the after-sale profit on each machine was only $5.00 (because the machine only cost $50.00). Hutchison’s big sales day had only made the company $25.00; however, Don Brown made a lasting impression that would become a turning point in his career.
Bitten by the ‘foil bug’, he became enthralled with hot stamping foil and all its decorating possibilities and purchased half of the Peerless Roll Leaf and Franklin Machinery distributorship for Texas from Jobe. He spent the first few years learning about foil and how it worked with Don Brown as his mentor. "I fell in love with the people I sold machines and foil to - I just simply loved this industry, and all that it had to offer," Hutchison recalled.
Peerless approached Hutchison about a distributorship in Kansas City and he jumped at the opportunity – excited at the prospect of landing Hallmark as a customer. Plus, he would get three other states in his territory: Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. So in 1965, Hutchison moved his family of five (wife Sue and their four young children) and headed for new opportunities. In the beginning, things were a little rough for the young Hutchison family. They bought a house in Overland Park, KS, and Hutchison worked out of the home. His first month on the job went really well and having worked very hard, the whole family was excited to receive his first commission check ... until it was opened. The excitement quickly dissipated as he read the amount of the check - $.57. If this was going to work, the entire family would have to participate – and participate they did! Truly a family affair, much time was spent teaching the boys exciting games such as "packing the foil box" or "folding the invoice" or their favorite, "foil stamp the Snoopy® spoons." The kids were learning the foil business as they learned their ABC’s.
Hutchison also started to really spin his entrepreneurial skills. As he talked to companies about buying foil and machines, he also talked to them about their foil stamping challenges. He noticed that many of the challenges could be overcome with a little ingenuity and elbow grease, so he started to work on ways to help and teach his customers better ways to foil stamp. And as their challenges were solved, Hutchison started to sell more foil. He also started to help his customers broker their stamping and in unique situations, even offered foil stamping services for his customers out of his basement. Hutchison set his wife, Sue, up with a foil-stamping machine and while the kids were in school, she would stamp plastic coasters for local greenhouses (they were personalized with the Greenhouse’s name). As the distributorship grew, he started adding additional products and developing spin-off companies to help support and further develop his foil distributorship. One such company, G & H Graphic Engraving, was formed in 1968 by Hutchison and several engravers who had worked for large greeting card publishers. The engravers manufactured the die products and Hutchison handled the sales. It would be the first company in a long line that would be started in an effort to better service his customers.
Hutchison initially started G & H Engraving due to several observations. First, he noticed that his customers were having a hard time keeping up with turnaround times because dies were taking so long to be manufactured (or there simply weren’t enough engravers available to meet the demand). He also noticed that the engraving companies at that time were small shops with one or maybe two engravers and the average age of the engravers was 55. Hutchison soon realized that there was going to be a diminished supply of dies in the very near future. Thus, he acted quickly and started an engraving shop to help keep the foil stamping and embossing industry growing by meeting the demand for both products - foil and dies.
Since Hutchison’s arrival in Kansas City, he had continually tried to sell hot stamping foil to Hallmark Cards – an effort challenging at best - although it did afford him the opportunity to sharpen his sales pitches and learn the fine art of humility. As he continued to beat on the Hallmark door, he looked for other ways to supplement his business. One such way was his makeready business. Hutchison put his entrepreneurial skills to work and started testing new products that he thought might be useful in the makeready process. He listened to customers and asked questions to help him better understand their needs and then went in search of resources with outside industries that had similar needs and conditions. When he had perfected the process, he went to his customers and offered his services to make their presses ready at night so they could start running first thing in the morning. Hutchison’s new makeready process, "Pour-A-Counter", cut hours off the traditional hand-cut makeready time and also resulted in a finished piece with higher quality. He later patented and shared this technology with the industry, recognizing its tremendous benefits of quicker makereadies, improved efficiency, and overall higher finished quality.
In 1969, while in a customer’s facility one night, Hutchison was approached by an older gentleman as he was setting up makereadies. After visiting with the gentleman and answering all of his questions, the man requested to see a sample of the job he was making ready - Hutchison agreed. The next morning, he found out the man was the owner of the printing company that at that time, handled a lot of outsourcing for Hallmark Cards. The owner, Hy Vile, asked how much foil he was selling to Hallmark and Hutchison told him that he had been trying for several years but to no avail. After checking the quality on stamped samples, Vile picked up the phone and made a call that resulted in another pivotal moment in Hutchison’s career. That phone call led not only to his first order with Hallmark Cards (100,000 feet and his largest order to that point) but more importantly, to a solid, long-lasting business relationship.
Hutchison continued to sell foil to Hallmark Cards until 1970 when Joyce Hall called him and asked, "Glenn, I was wondering, how would you like to own your own roll leaf company?" Hutchison responded back that he didn’t have any money. Hall replied, "That’s the problem with you young people, you never answer the question asked of you. So I will repeat, would you like to own your own foil company?" Hutchison replied, "Yes, Mr. Hall I would like to own my own foil company." He now knew the reason he had never sold foil to Hallmark prior to meeting Mr. Hall - Hallmark actually owned its own foil company, which sold the foil to Hallmark Cards.
Through this Hallmark deal, Hutchison now owned a foil manufacturing company, Durby Laboratories, along with his partner Thomas Cussimano, an employee of Hallmark Cards who had been sent to Durby Laboratories to run the facility. Hutchison and Cussimano changed the name of the company to Universal Lustre Leaf, Inc. and together they ran the company - each with a different area of responsibility. The company’s new line of foils with their unique properties of adhesion and print quality allowed foil to be used on a much wider spectrum of substrates. The new releases provided broader temperature ranges, allowing for cleaner foil stamped images on a wider variety of substrates.
While operating Universal Lustre Leaf, Hutchison contributed many innovative products and solutions to the industry – contributions that are still used and noteworthy today. In 1972, he started the first Hot Stamping Seminars – impressed with the Printing Craftsman Association and its motto "Share Your Knowledge." Hutchison believed whole-heartedly in this concept because it aligned so well with his own beliefs and values and held firm to the view that you only improve by sharing your knowledge with others and listening to others as they share with you. So Hutchison, along with Brandtjen and Kluge, developed a similar concept within the industry, conducting foil stamping and embossing demonstrations across the country (along with Kluge Salesman Bob Lehman) on presses supplied by Kluge. According to Hutchison, this experience was the single most beneficial career builder. "Through this program, I built my name and with it I learned so many new processes and techniques, which I was then able to share with so many others," Hutchison explained. The seminars also gained him national, as well as international, exposure.
In 1974, a pivotal year, Hutchison introduced pastel tint foils and the tint foil embossing process. Immediately, this led to an exponential growth of foil stamping and embossing in the greeting card and social stationery markets. Tint foil created the coveted ‘scorched’ look that was widely associated with high quality without the added heat or pressure. Hutchison introduced the concept of refraction to the U.S. foil stamping and embossing industry. Having been originally developed in England, Hutchison made arrangements to buy the dies from the English company and alter them with custom images. The product provided a whole new decorative medium. Much later, in 1981, Hutchison would develop his own process called, Unifraxion®, which could be sold at a fraction of the cost and had far more possibilities. In that same year, he developed the air blast system to assist in the separation of foil while stamping. His design was given to Kluge so that it could be made a part of the machine – and a variation of this innovation is still used today. In fact, most foil stamping presses now use air to assist in the separation of foil.
Hutchison also decided to add an engraved die product line to his foil offering, having sold his interest in G&H Graphic Engraving to his partners years earlier. He had witnessed the benefit of having a quality die company that could manufacture high quality products in a reasonable turnaround time. He also knew how important the supply of dies was to the future of the foil industry, so he started to hire engravers who had training and experience. With a core team, the industry’s first engraver training program was developed. This program was vital to the success and future of the engraving industry, as it was plagued by a lack of training - as the older engravers were retiring, there was no one to fill their shoes. If something wasn’t done, and done quickly, the art of engraving would be in danger of extinction. Hutchison knew this and understood the commitment it would take. Together with his team, they built the foundation upon which Universal Engraving, Inc. would be incorporated.
Through his travels and sales experience, Hutchison noticed that a related industry, the thermography industry, was having challenges with its thermography powder. Seeing a connection between the two industries, as many finishers provided both thermography and foil stamping, he started a company to better supply both industries in 1975. Later, the company was sold to one of his chemists.
In 1978, Hutchison reintroduced copper dies from the letterpress industry as an alternative to magnesium. Copper dies had several positive qualities - namely the hardness of the metal and their excellent heat conductivity. He also assembled a complete line of makeready materials, including the development of a pre-cast counter system - a system that molds a counter from a heated die before it goes on press so the fit is perfect. In addition, Hutchison developed the first engraver-training program that is still instrumental today. He also achieved the first EPA-compliant foil manufacturing plant in the U.S. in 1979 and set the standards. This was done in an attempt to prove to the industry that ‘yes’ foil could be made ecologically sound and still produce a quality product.
Cussimano and Hutchison later decided to sell their company to Crown Roll Leaf, with Cussimano staying on board with Crown and Hutchison taking the current inventory and starting again with his foil distribution company. It was at this time that he and his children, who were working in the foil company, decided to split it into two different companies.
In 1982, the foil distribution company was called U.S.E. Foils and ran under Hutchison’s leadership with his children, David, Glenda, Larry and Jim. In addition, he decided to continue managing the die business, incorporating it as Universal Engraving, Inc. (UEI) and establishing it as an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Because of the loyalty his engravers had shown throughout the years, especially during the ‘pressure years’, Hutchison wanted to reward his employees with stock ownership. "If you are an owner then you must think like an owner and make more informed and better decisions," Hutchison explained. "Decisions that benefit the company will ultimately benefit you, the owner, because the company will become more profitable."
In 1992, the Hutchison family merged U.S.E. Foils with the Markem Corporation’s subsidiary, the Milford Astor Company, creating Astor Universal, which was then sold to its present day owner The API Group, who currently operates that company under the name API Foils. Hutchison continued to operate UEI as the president along with his management team and in 1996, recognized another industry crisis specific to the engraving industry, which was experiencing problems in the quality and availability of its raw materials and basic supplies. So Hutchison took action and hired his own chemists and engineers and developed a copper etching system, The GPC® System, which later developed into a separate division of Universal Engraving, Inc., called UEI® Systems. The goal of this new division was to seek out and sell engraving products, machines and supplies, as well as teach other engravers the techniques and practices that Hutchison’s team had learned and developed.
Hutchison continued to push the envelope with new products and techniques, introducing a revolutionary new engraving process to the U.S. market called CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufactured dies. And recently, along with son, Larry, developed a revolutionary new way to combine traditional engraving skills with the advancements of computerized cutting.
Universal Engraving, Inc. continues to operate as an ESOP company and has grown from a small engraved die operation to the largest engraving company in the world with global manufacturing partners. UEI’s internal R&D department continues to play an important role and has been responsible for many of the industry’s recent innovations, including magnetic lock-up systems and dies.
Today, as Chairman of the Board of the UEI® Group companies, Hutchison is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations but is still instrumental in determining the company’s direction and helping to guide its future. UEI still believes in the principals that built the company and will continue to share its knowledge in an effort to provide the best service and assistance to its customers. "I have had so many opportunities in my lifetime. I also have had the ability to recognize a need and the courage to take a chance," stated Hutchison. "I like change and risk ... they make life interesting!"