10 Roads to Success
by Erik Cagle
Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1976, Elbing worked as a medical drug representative for Pfizer Laboratories before moving into print sales for Johnson Graphics of Dubuque, IA, then Castle-Pierce Printing of Oshkosh. In 1985, he purchased Alden Ferguson's stake in Service Litho-Print and became vice president (he was also president of Acme Press, which Service Litho-Print had acquired two years earlier.) Now co-owner along with Scott Thoe, one of Elbing's first executive decisions occurred in the pressroom. During a company-sponsored holiday party for SLP's associates (employees), one of Litho-Print's clients-dressed as Santa Claus-took a sledgehammer and bashed the time clock in an act of employee empowerment. Elbing infused some life into the company again in the late 1990s by investing in R&D that helped spark a 30 percent growth in sales in 1999 and 20 percent in 2000.
Elbing on Managing: "Managers need to show a passion for what they do; I've hired people here without as much experience as other candidates, but they displayed passion. "A good manager needs an entrepreneurial spirit, constantly looking for better ways to do things. The person should be both results-and goal-orientated, and exemplify the ability to put together a plan of action to meet those goals. They should be accountable-willing to take risks and chances-but will take responsibility for those actions. You need to be a good listener, either one-on-one or among a group, and should be inspirational. "(Green Bay Packers quarterback) Brett Favre, for example, gets other people to perform and produce at a higher level. "Most important, though, is integrity. A company is known by its management's integrity. And it can literally take just one person to taint that reputation."
Colleague Viewpoint: "When Steve talks about his workers, he refers to them as his associates," notes Niell Power, president of the Printing Industries of Wisconsin. "He lets people manage their own part of the company, and he holds them to a high standard. I've talked to many of his employees and they love him. They're hired by Steve from the head up, not just the neck down."
DeWese on Elbing: "Steve has the leadership and managerial ability to manage a Fortune 500 company. He has done it with, among other things, the ability to motivate others and get them in lock step, marching toward common goals."