A Lifetime of Support
by Cory Francer, Senior Content Editor at NAPCO Media packagePRINTING
A music class at a community college in Kansas City is an unusual starting point for a story about a label printer. Randy Wise made the decision to enroll in community college courses, and it was there that he crossed paths with Geri in a music class. The professor must have noticed some sort of connection between the two, because as Randy explains, it was the professor’s persistence that got them to start dating.
“He made it his mission to see to it that we somehow got together,” Randy reminisces. “The rest kind of flowed from there.”
If fate didn’t put Randy and Geri Wise in this class together, they may have never met, married and become the successful owners of Hyde Park Label.
Randy Wise had moved to Kansas City when he was 19 and found work after answering an advertisement from a label company seeking a delivery driver. It didn’t take long before Bruce Boyd, the man that hired Wise, took him off the road and into Z Label’s printing plant. Randy quickly learned about the flexographic process and within a short period of time became production manager.
The Journey Begins
The path that took Randy and Geri Wise from students in Kansas City to becoming co-owners of Hyde Park Label in Round Rock, Texas, was hardly a direct route. While Randy’s career has been spent entirely in label printing, Geri started in a far different field.
She was hired as a salesperson for M&M Mars, where a promotion and career opportunity required the couple to move east from Kansas City to New Jersey. Once the relocation was complete, it didn’t take Randy long to catch back on with label printing. Driscoll Label, a high-end prime label printer brought Randy on board, and working there became a pivotal experience in shaping his burgeoning career.
The company’s owner, Bob Biava, provided a much different perspective on the label business from what Randy was accustomed to. In his previous work, it was fast paced, high-octane production. But at Driscoll Label, the specialty was high-end, prime labels.
“It was a much different pace,” Randy recalls. “It was much more considerate and deliberate about what we were doing and the products we approached.”
After three years in New Jersey, M&M Mars again promoted Geri. Surely an exciting event, but it meant another move. The couple packed up again and moved 1,500 miles across the country, this time to the Dallas area.
Randy was again able to find work in the label industry at Craftmark Label, a small company that originally started in a garage. But when Randy joined up with Craftmark, he wasn’t hired to work on the production end. In fact he had specifically requested not to.
“I had a lot of interviews to be a production manager, but I wanted to be a sales rep,” Randy recalls. “I figured somewhere down the way I would run my own company and I would need the background and experience.”
Randy says his stint as a salesman was “moderately successful,” and he then moved on to hold other positions within the company, the last being vice president of operations. Not long after becoming vice president of operations, Randy’s premonition that he would eventually become a business owner came true.
Business Owners and Business Partners
In 1999, the opportunity arose for Randy and Geri to take on a company of their own. Century Label, a Dallas-based company, became available for purchase after its founding owner decided it was time to retire.
As a pair of career-oriented, driven people throughout their relationship, Randy and Geri made a commitment to each other to be supportive in all of their career moves. Geri explains that Randy demonstrated this commitment by accompanying her on two moves to support her career. When the time came to become business owners, Geri says that she supported Randy by informing M&M Mars that she would no longer be mobile and eventually joined their co-owned company full time.
“Randy moved two times to help support my career and I was very grateful for that,” Geri says. “When we got into the discussion of buying Century, I wanted to support him in this collaboration. We’re a team and we work together, so that was very important. I think that’s another reason why we continue as well as we do together. We support each other.”
After the deal was in place, the Wises were determined to grow and expand Century Label’s reach and capabilities. The company already had a great reputation in the Dallas area and through some strategic acquisitions, Randy and Geri put a specific plan in place to develop it into a premier high-quality prime label printer.
Five years into the Wise’s ownership of Century Label, Hyde Park Label came onto the market. Randy believed that Hyde Park, based in Austin, would provide exactly what he was looking for and he made an attempt to acquire the company. The deal fell through, but four years later, Hyde Park was on the market again, and this time, the Wises sealed the deal.
“We have since merged the two companies along with a third opportunistic acquisition along the way,” Randy says. “We merged them all into Austin and since Austin was the home city of Hyde Park Label, we kept the Hyde Park name.”
Since consolidating everything into one location, the Wises have been able to turn what was once a regional label printer into a major player for national business. While there were several stops in between the beginning of their careers and their ownership of Hyde Park Label, Randy and Geri have each found ways to use their varied backgrounds to the benefit of the company.
For Randy, much of his business acumen was learned from Biava. Though Randy only spent three years working under Biava’s tutelage, their relationship quickly developed into more of a mentorship.
To this day, Geri says she and Randy make sure they implement one of Biava’s most important teachings, not just about label printing, but about business ownership in general.
“It’s all about people and the importance of people,” she says. “Without them, you’re not going to be as successful as you want to be. We embrace that to this day.”
The Foundations and the Future
During the early days of their ownership of the company, Geri would spend some nights and weekends at the company and Randy would teach her about the label business. In 2005, the opportunity presented itself for Geri to join the label world full time, so she quickly dove into the company’s sales efforts. She says that with her background in sales and marketing and Randy’s expertise in production and operations, they were a perfect pair to run a company together.
“I actually got out there and made face to face calls, which was an education in itself for me because selling labels is totally different from selling what I had been,” Geri says. “I used to work for M&M Mars and people think that’s an easy sale, but not necessarily. But, it’s a lot easier than selling labels, I’ll tell you that.”
When he became a business owner, Randy says he quickly learned that in order to grow and thrive in the highly competitive field of label printing, organization and accuracy took on a whole new level of importance.
He explains that if he hadn’t invested in the Label Traxx business management system early on, it would have been much more difficult to expand and build upon the company’s foundation.
“That was one of the best things we ever did,” he says. “It helped us manage our growth. Without it I don’t think we could have managed the growth we were experiencing thereafter.”
Randy explains that he was familiar with TLMI when he became a business owner, but didn’t completely understand what the organization was all about. He says that joining the association wasn’t even really on his radar until he received a call from Biava, a former board member, encouraging him to join.
Once they were official members and began attending meetings, Randy explains that in addition to the top-notch speakers and educational sessions, the networking opportunities at TLMI events became invaluable.
“The colleagues you meet help guide you and are willing to share what they’ve gone through, what they’ve done and what their experiences have been,” Randy says. “When you’re young and you’re growing really fast, one of your challenges is how you manage this growth. How do you finance it and how do you control it? These guys have been through it, are a storehouse of information and are just absolutely caring, giving and are willing to help guide you through it.”
Over time, the Wises developed from TLMI members to TLMI leaders. Randy has chaired an annual meeting, Geri has chaired a converter meeting and both have served on the Board of Directors. For the past six years, Geri has also served as a co-chair of the Marketing Committee.
“Without TLMI, I don’t think we would be where we are today as a company,” Geri says. “We’d be getting there but we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today without the expertise, the exposure and the knowledge that we’ve gained from being members of TLMI.”
While the Wises are quick to credit TLMI for playing a major role in Hyde Park Label’s success, other TLMI members explain that the benefits go both ways. Bob Zaconne, a former TLMI member and partial owner of GSI Technologies says that every time he has seen Randy and Geri at a TLMI event, they’re not just there for the social elements of the meetings. Zaconne says they are actively involved in discussions, committees and can always be found in the first row of seats during sessions.
Zaconne says he has also been very impressed with the manner in which they have grown Hyde Park Label. Not only do they do top-notch work and possess strong business intelligence, Zaconne says Randy and Geri each maintain excellent people skills, an absolute necessity in business.
“A lot of people buy businesses and look for ways to lower costs,” Zaconne says. “The first place they look is their employees and that’s the wrong place to look to lower costs. Randy and Geri get that and really have embraced their staff and lifted them, along with themselves, to a whole new level. It’s fun and exciting to watch.”
Lori Campbell, a TLMI member and chief of operations for The Label Printers, says that both Randy and Geri are generally soft spoken, but are very influential and thoughtful when talking during meetings.
“They both strike me as kind of quiet but powerful,” Campbell says. “They’re engaged, and you can tell from the moment you start talking to them.”
Outside of work, Randy and Geri lead an active lifestyle, traveling frequently and riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They also enjoy visiting their families in Kansas and Missouri and exploring the renowned music and dining scene around Austin.
Originally published in the October 2015 issue of packagePRINTING.
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