Rock LaManna is president and CEO of LaManna Alliance. Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, LaManna Alliance works with owners in the global printing and graphic communications industry who are ready to sell, merge, retire or make a strategic transition. LaManna has unique insight into a number of specialty finishing and print sectors, including wide format/signage, screen printing, packaging, labels and more. With 35 years in the industry and an ownership background, LaManna has a straightforward business style and a large network of connections and strategic partners to help selling owners achieve their ideal transition.
How did you find the printing industry as a career?
Growing up, my family owned a converting/printing company in St. Paul, Minnesota. Six miles down the road from our facility was the 3M Company, and my father had a tremendous relationship with them for over 30 years. I started in the family business in 1975, when I was 21 years old. I was thrown into the world of manufacturing and business growth. We were a beta site for 3M, and through that I was exposed to innovative products, specialty applications and global markets for the graphics and printing industries.
How have your experiences put you in a position to influence the printing and postpress markets?
I spent many years building manufacturing businesses for others and buying and selling those businesses. I sold my last manufacturing business in 2000, and that’s when I decided to become a business advisor. I looked around and thought to myself, “I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs over the years. Someone needs to look into the future and help owners who have so many important decisions to make. I have the expertise, passion and energy to stay on the cutting edge of this industry.”
Working with 3M, the first thing we learned was to analyze the market before even starting to look at developing a new product: what is the size of the market and is it worth going into that market? Now, when I walk into a plant, I look at how the products are being manufactured. I look at the company’s processes and how print and products are converted. I observe how the company has overcome production challenges. I track how quality is achieved, supplies are utilized and how time savings are enabled. I’m taking note of new technologies and figuring out where or if there is a market for them. I help owners understand that we’re always looking ahead at the next five to 10 years, which means looking at technologies for 2025.
What’s the most critical investment for owners to make now?
The three most important things for any manufacturing business are product, process and people. Most of my clients come to me as if they are a one-man band, and they’re not. In some cases, they’ve spent 25 years taking care of themselves instead of their employees or instead of focusing on their product. Now, their business is in crisis.
Owners need to see that growth, expansion and product development are all about people. They don’t just happen. The print industry itself is growing, and it’s also consolidating. In the last two or three years, if a printing business is not growing at 10 to 30 percent, it is doing something wrong. When I tour plants, the first thing I notice is if the employees say hello to the boss and how the owners interact with their employees. I observe which employees look happy and who looks unhappy, and I start to determine why the business is not growing.
With LaManna Alliance, I have people that I have worked with for 25 years who I handpicked. I invest in people and advise my clients to do the same. Your people are the future of your business. They’re the ones who are going to implement your vision and your game plan. It’s important to invest in their growth and happiness.
What do you see for the industry as you look five to 10 years into the future? How will you and LaManna Alliance still be influencing the print industry?
I’m very excited about what’s coming down the road in the next few years. There’s a myth that the printing industry is dead, but that’s just not true. Printing is in favor now, and there’s a lot of talent out there today that is underutilized. Specialty finishers and producers of printed effects are strategically positioned to capitalize on the growth being predicting for the label and packaging sectors. Companies that can create products for global consumption will have an advantage. In addition, specialty printers and finishers would do well to look at serving the needs of niches such as food-safe packaging or security printing for pharmaceuticals.
There always are print sectors that are growing and sectors that are contracting. Looking down the road at what people will need in the future for print will help business owners make decisions today.