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Interview with New Drytac CEO Hayden Kelley


  • New Drytac CEO Takes “We Must Make It Happen” Attitude Into The Future

    An Interview with Hayden Kelley

    by Sean O'Leary

    Drytac, a manufacturer of graphics printing, finishing and specialty products, has appointed Hayden Kelley CEO of the Richmond, VA-based company. Effective January 1, 2016, Kelley was handed the reins of a diversified global operation with manufacturing and distribution locations in the US, Canada and Europe. With core capabilities in film coating and converting, the company develops and markets products for an eyebrow raising range of markets, including commercial printing, in-plant and copy shops, screen printing and a long list of wide-format and display related businesses.

    Founded in 1976 by current Chairman Richard Kelley, Drytac has managed to negotiate and thrive amidst the colossal changes wrought by digital technology and globalization while holding onto its independence. While many graphics outfits have fallen victim to consolidation or bankruptcy over the past four decades, Drytac proved it is possible to be profitable manufacturing in Britain and North America.

    How did they manage that?

    To get the answers to that question, PrintPlanet caught up with the new CEO for a chat about the past , present and future.

    PPQ: First, how long have long have you worked for Drytac?
    HK: I’ve been in the business for about 20 years, with some time away getting an MBA and working in the banking business. At Drytac, I literally started at the bottom. I worked as a teenager in Toronto making sample books, sweeping floors and building equipment when necessary. I’m actually the only employee of the Company who has worked at each of our subsidiary companies: USA, Canada and UK. There has been a sea change in the business over the years, but I think I have a good context based on my experience.

    PPQ: What are the plusses and minuses of operating in three countries. How does it give you a strategic advantage?
    HK: Great question. For one thing, Drytac has benefitted from the trend toward large brands standardizing their print requirements on a global basis. This is good for us because we can ensure a consistent quality of output across all locations. In general, as the world keeps getting smaller, the ability to supply customers pretty much anywhere has given us a leg up.

    The flip side is that we have to be on our toes, perhaps more so than most companies. We work with a variety of currencies in a financial environment that continues to be volatile. We do currency hedging to mitigate any uncertainties, but it’s an expense that I would much rather do without.

    PPQ: How do you account for Drytac’s ability to survive the past 40 years as an independent family owned company?
    HK: Quite honestly, we have taken the cue from the founder–my father–who built this business out of many long hours and an old station wagon. The attitude I remember from my earliest childhood is “We must make it happen.” That has become an integral component of the Company’s culture and also, I believe, our character.

    I think we’ve always recognized the need to evolve, which to me means connecting with those who drive the technology change. That includes everyone in the food chain, from printer manufacturers to customers. My father established what we would now call a collaborate approach to working with customers and often with our customers’ customers.

    By the same token, we have been careful not to overreach. We know our strengths and this is what we focus on. We see no reason to venture down rabbit holes in search of a quick sale.

    PPQ. What new products and/or markets are you looking at?
    Our focus on the printing and graphics markets is what got us here and we expect to continue tap into those long term relationships. That means we’ll work with the manufacturers to develop printer-certified media that will deliver the color accuracy and durability people have come to expect from us. We have never subscribed to the “If you build it they will come” school of thought.

    Sometimes that takes us into interesting specialty areas. For example, we developed a removable printable vinyl material that was used to wrap Wembley Stadium for the NFL game and the Rugby World Cup. We got that job because the material was easier to apply and remove than anything else they tested. They saved a lot of money. We have always taken pride in working with creative minds to come up with innovative solutions. I see no reason to change that approach.

    PPQ: Anything new for offset?
    HK: As a matter of fact, we are testing a couple of promising new products in Europe that are getting a great reception in the offset and copy shop markets. When we finish tweaking those products, I promise to share it with you first. We will be rolling those out in 2016.
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