Philie Group Blog

Next Generation Leadership – 3 Ideas
By Mike Philie

This blog originally published in Printing Impressions.


It’s never been more important to have a plan for the next generation of your leadership team. We all agree that there is a need to attract the younger generation into the business, and there has been a significant amount of work done by many folks in the industry to help achieve this. But, it doesn’t end there.


On-going training and development for those new to the company, and to the industry is important in that it continues to train and groom them, but also helps to keep them engaged and learning. These are two areas that many companies struggle with these days.


Over the past several years, I was fortunate enough to facilitate the NexGen Leadership programs for NAPL, Epicomm, and Idealliance. We had a structured three-year curriculum that included classroom training, plant tours, and visits to manufacturers. The sessions were designed to encourage give and take with group exercises and open discussion. I’m not sure who learned the most, the students or me! Many of those folks are now in leadership roles and doing very well for themselves and their company. Certainly fun for me to watch their success. We need more of these programs!


Youth Movement in our Industry


So how do we attract these younger folks to our industry? I wrote a few years ago about the time I was having breakfast at a popular diner in the college town where my daughter went to school. It was Sunday and there was a waiting line for all the booths and tables. I found an empty stool at the counter and proceeded to order breakfast and read the paper. I couldn’t help overhear the conversation coming from a few recent grads sitting to my right. They were discussing the jobs they had started, and the experiences they’ve been able to have so far. They spoke of the goals and expectations that had been placed on them in order to be successful – and eligible for a promotion, a bonus or a move to the next phase in their training. With passion and excitement in their voice, they were describing their next 2-3 years of advancement and development within the companies they were with. Another key, show them that there is a career path within your company.


What can you do – 3 ideas


The reality is that many small to mid-size businesses don’t have a fully funded training budget to simply hire recent grads and put them through a program with the hopes that they’ll emerge a solid performer in a short period of time. Rather, new hires need to be productive from the start. If you don’t already have some younger folks on board, or a son or daughter that wants to have a career in this business, here are three ideas that might work within your organization.


  1. Recruit from one of the several colleges that feature programs in the graphic communications industry. These young graduates have committed themselves to our industry and can make a positive impact on your business in a very short time. If you’re looking for someone that might have more of a sales slant, there are several schools that offer sales programs as well.


  1. Make your business attractive to a young person who is looking to learn, work hard and grow within a business. This could mean creating a series of jobs that could lead them through their first 2-3 years of employment. Make each one a ‘real job’ that allows the person to ‘pay for themselves’ while learning and being challenged. As they progress through these roles, and through their performance evaluations, you’ll both be able to determine their best fit and contribution to your company.


  1. Take a hard look at the young people already working in your business. They may be in a production or support role and may or may not have had the opportunity to get a college degree. They may have, though, a passion and interest in this business. Maybe they need a chance to succeed, maybe they need someone to give them a break. What do you get in return? You get someone with a passion for the business, a desire to learn and grow and a young person who you’ll watch take on greater responsibility as they grow. I’m reminded of two of the most successful sales reps I’ve worked with – one started out as the receptionist and the other started out driving the delivery truck. If you have one of these gems in your business, maybe it’s time to give them a shot.


Get your team together and evaluate whether these options work for your business. If you’ve come up with something else, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck with this and remember, doing nothing is not an option!


Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at, LinkedIn or email at


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