Always a pleasure to meet with Thayer Long from APTech. At the last PRINT show,​ Thayer Long was pretty new to his position but the year has been filled with challenges so, of course, we had to set up an interview with him to hear about what has been going on the past years – and what to expect from the future. Enjoy this open-minded interview with one of our favorites!

Opening Day here in Chicago PRINT 18, really wonderful day. We opened it up with Seth Godin, who’s a marketing guru, so well known around the world for his influence in the marketing world and he provided a really great message to our attendees about how to think differently, be innovative, be prepared to take risks. If you think you’re ready, then you’ve waited too long in order to move forward on it. So that’s how our day started. We’ve got great traffic on the show floor right now. It looks very busy out there. I’ve heard back from a number of our exhibitors that they’re getting ready to announce some deals that they’ve done here at the event. So that makes us happy to hear that as well. So just having a lot of fun here, it’s what we’re doing.

I think so. I think it’s on the right track. I think we’re listening and responding to the marketplace. I think we’re listening to the people. The visitors that are coming through these doors, they’re looking for technology, but they’re also looking for ideas on how they can innovate their businesses. How they can use the technology to help grow their business. It’s one thing to tell somebody what they need to do, but then you need to help show them how to do it and we hear time and time again from the printers, they know what they need to do. They know they need to change. They know the areas to which they need to shift towards, but they really need help doing it. It’s very difficult to actually implement, and so that’s really what we’re hoping to achieve here. That’s our guiding principles. Helping printers make the leap.

Part of what we’re doing on the educational track, yes. It’s also a part of the message that we’re working with our manufacturers on regularly now. Because I think some of them get it. I think some of the manufacturers also see the same situation where they need to work with their customers on how to take a new piece of equipment. Maybe it’s a wide format piece of equipment, and the wide format business, how to sell it, how to make money from that. How to take that new line of business and integrate it into their existing line of business. So I think that’s a message that resonates well, but I think what needs to happen is now we actually need … someone needs actually provide some leadership to help drive that. And that’s what the association is here to help do.

We wanted to bring the ecosystem closer together within our group. So in order to help achieve what we want to achieve, we needed to officially bring the print service provider members into the organization more formally, and so we can more fully engage with them. And that’s what we plan to do. We’ve already had members signing up already, some really big companies that are excited about what we’re doing, and they’re excited about seeing an organization that is about bringing the two sides, if you will, the manufacturer and vendor side and the print service provider side together as virtual equals at the table to collaborate and to solve problems. And so I think it’s really exciting that we’re embarking on that journey. Next year at this time, I’m going to love to give you an update on how that’s going.

First and foremost, we’re looking to help grow the pie, right? So to speak. We’re helping to grow the pie of print, that’s our objective. The way that we’re going about it is by helping the print community engage with each other. So Seth Godin at the show spoke about tribes and how there are many tribes out in the world. And I look at the PRINT 18, and the attendance and the people that we bring here as one big tribe. They come and they meet every year and they have a great time. They learned lots of things and it’s their place, it’s where they belong.

So what we’re looking to do, our strategy is really making sure that we’re strengthening that tribe and making that tribe as strong as possible for the future. And that’s our focus. Certainly we work in a competitive world and we’re competing not just with other … not necessarily with other venues or other organizations. I don’t look at it that way, but we’re always competing for people’s time and their mind share. You know, whether or not they’re going to spend money coming here or are they going to go spend money for $7 mocha at Starbucks, right? There’s competition everywhere. So we just want to make sure that we’re providing a lot of value for the industry. And if we do that then everyone’s going to win. If we do that.

That’s a great example. Thank you board. I think we’ve done some awesome things in the past. I wouldn’t be diplomatic, but. No, I think that’s a great point.

The industry needs to celebrate itself. There’s so much cool stuff that we can do with this industry. Why not take this opportunity to showcase it and be proud of it. So, right. We had a great relationship with what they think they developed the APP print guy with a lot of versioning for that. That’s super cool. That’s so far been the talk of the show so far, which is fantastic. The event guy where we did some nice embellishment on that. Showcasing what you can do with print, right? Our leading print magazine. We’ve used some really cool substrate with a gritty cover to give that texture feel to it. Again, all of these things that you can do with print, and let’s showcase it and let’s utilize it. So, that’s what we wanted to do.