Cal Sutphin Wins the Ault Award

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 09.09.05

Braden Sutphin Ink's president reflects on the importance of family and commitment after receiving NAPIM's Ault Award.

The Ault Award, the highest honor presented by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), recognizes an individual who has made “an outstanding contribution to the industry.”

Cal Sutphin, Braden Sutphin Ink’s president is this year’s Ault Award recipient, and he certainly fits the criteria. Mr. Sutphin has been an ambassador for the industry, and he is truly liked by all throughout the industry. His willingness to help out whenever he is called upon is sincere. His remarkable ability to remember seemingly everyone he meets comes from his genuine compassion for people.

“It’s certainly very special, and it’s really a great thrill,” Mr. Sutphin said of receiving the Ault Award. “It’s a wonderful honor from a wonderful industry.”

Cal Sutphin displays the Ault Award as, from left, Jimmy Sutphin, Cal Sutphin Jr., Jane Leitch, Sally Hebner, Jim Leitch, Sandy Sutphin and Michael Sutphin enjoy the festivities.

Although his receiving the Ault Award came as a surprise to no one else at the NAPIM Convention, Mr. Sutphin said he was caught off guard.

“I had thought of other possibilities; after all, I’m only 62, and I’ll be around a few more years,” said Mr. Sutphin, who received NAPIM’s Pioneer Award in 1992. “One of the first thoughts I had was that I’m only with a $45 million company. I’ve done a lot, but am I truly deserving?”

Whenever Cal Sutphin’s name comes up, words such as “deserving,” “down to earth” and “committed” quickly flow.

“Guys like Cal are unbelievable,” said Jim Leitch, Braden Sutphin’s CEO. “He is really committed to the industry and has a true commitment to people in general. He has an amazing desire to know people personally. He really works hard to know everyone. He’s a true hard-charger.”

“I’ve known Cal since he was nine years old,” said Ted Zelek, chairman of Braden Sutphin. “He came up through the ranks. His father insisted his sons should start from the bottom. Cal came up throughout the shipping room, washed ink tubs and packed ink, every menial job there was. He’s a down to earth person. There’s nothing pretentious about him. He’s an amazing individual.

“He is a human dynamo,” Mr. Zelek continued. “He just doesn’t stop. He’s on the road at six in the morning. He found it very successful to leave donuts at printers when he delivers ink, and he still does that.”

People outside of Braden Sutphin also have nothing but nice things to say about Mr. Sutphin.

“I can’t imagine anyone who’s more deserving than Cal,” said Robert Gans, chairman of Gans Ink and Supply Co., who received the Ault Award in 1979. “I’m so proud of him. He’s a true representative of what the ink business should be.”

“I think it’s truly deserved,” said James Coleman, NAPIM’s executive director. “He has a tremendous willingness to contribute.”

The Sutphin holiday photo from 2000.

Family Life
Braden Sutphin Ink is a family-run business, and the sense of family is deeply rooted. Mr. Sutphin looks toward his parents Al and Mary, brother Jimmy and his four sisters – Jane Leitch, Mary Sutphin, Carolyn Leitch and Alberta Stoney, who has been with the company nearly 50 years herself – as role models.

“Our mother was very staunch and devout,” Mr. Sutphin recalled. “Every day I think of my dad’s philosophies. He really cared about people, and it’s so important to let people know that you care.”

“What a fabulous role model Jimmy is – so honest, hard working and kind,” Mr. Sutphin continued. “I would say my sisters were also role models for me, working in the shipping department during World War II.

The family’s support kept the company together after Al Sutphin passed away in 1974.

“Our dad passed away in 1974, before I ever attended a NAPIM convention,” Mr. Sutphin added.

“The company was left equally to our four sisters, Jimmy and I, each with a one-sixth share. Without the support of the girls and Jimmy, there was no way that I would have ever served NAPIM, much less receive the Ault Award. Honestly, I feel very, very humble.”

The Sutphin brothers are particularly close, and Cal Sutphin had the honor of presenting the Ault Award the night Jimmy Sutphin won it.

“It was really very special when I received the Ault Award in 1997 because Cal presented it to me,” Jimmy Sutphin said.

Mr. Sutphin has the uncanny ability to greet people he has met only once before by name. Those who know the Sutphin family well say that Mr. Sutphin gets his amazing ability to remember details about people he meets from his father.

“His father used to own the Cleveland Arena, and he’d greet people before games by name,” Mr. Zelek said. “With Cal it’s the same. He wears his red tie in honor of his father, who was known as ‘the man in the red tie’ around Cleveland. He’s very much a family man.”

Family life is very important to Mr. Sutphin, and he knows the sacrifices that his wife Sandy made throughout his career, raising seven children: Sally, who is a CPA; Cal Jr., Braden Sutphin’s Richmond, VA sales manager; Julie, a police detective; Alison, a teacher; Mia, a nurse, who passed away Sunday, May 19 in Kenya from a negative side effect of an anti-malaria drug; Michael, who works at Price Waterhouse; and Carrie, who is at the University of Miami, studying journalism and photography.

“Sandy told me she is so happy I received the Ault. She’s always been very gracious,” Mr. Sutphin said. “Sandy did a lot over the years to support me. For 13 years, I ran our plant in Cleveland, and for the first eight years we didn’t have a second car. To have three of my kids at the Ault Awards banquet was so special, and to receive special letters from the rest of my children who could not attend was so wonderful. I always tried hard not to miss their special events.”

At Braden Sutphin
After Mr. Sutphin attended John Carroll University, he joined Braden Sutphin, working his way through manufacturing and marketing, serving as plant and operations manager, marketing vice president, executive vice president and now president.

“I joined Braden Sutphin full-time in January 1960, and in February 1967, our dad, who was 73, called a family meeting and advised us he was moving up to chairman of the board,” Mr. Sutphin said. “He appointed Jimmy president and me vice president. That was very special. In October 1981, Jimmy moved up to chairman, and I was elected president, which was exciting.”

“We really worked well together,” Jimmy Sutphin said. “He started out running the factory, and I told him he would be a great salesman, and he became one. Cal is the best salesman I’ve ever known, the classic cold call salesman.”

It was his years as a salesman that led Cal Sutphin to provide donuts to pressmen.

Jimmy and Cal Sutphin enjoy a laugh following the Ault Award ceremony.

“I give donuts away every day,” Mr. Sutphin said. “I get up at 4:40 every morning, and am on the road at 5:40. I used to go to Alliance Printing in Cleveland, and next door to it was a donut shop. I started buying them for myself, and then for the pressmen.”

A key move came in 1977, when Braden Sutphin expanded its operations to the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area, opening a branch in Savage, MD.

“Both Jimmy and I thought that the Baltimore-Washington market would be good for another branch,” Mr. Sutphin said. “After 17 years together in Cleveland, we had an amazing relationship, but I wanted to move on, and we both agreed we should have a location out east.”

“We had always had customers in Baltimore-Washington area but we didn’t have a branch, so it was hard to provide service,” Jimmy Sutphin added. “Cal and John DiAngelo started our branch and didn’t have a lot of business to begin with, but now it’s a very successful part of our company.”

Having been in the industry for 47 years, it would be understandable if Mr. Sutphin chose to reduce his work schedule, but that’s far from the case. Mr. Sutphin’s father believed his children should meet with customers, and to this day Mr. Sutphin keeps a heavy account load.

“I still carry a $3.5 million quota, mostly in sheetfed,” Mr. Sutphin said. “My dad felt it was important that we have direct account responsibility. That way, you weren’t in the ivory tower, but were sensitive to customers and their new technologies. From 1976 to 1999, I never gave up an account; in 1999, I gave up 50 accounts and worked with our salespeople more. I would like to keep working, maybe reduce my direct account responsibilities, but keep in the field.”

Importance of Service
Braden Sutphin Ink has a long record of service to NAPIM and printing organizations. Al Sutphin was a longtime NAPIM director, and Jimmy Sutphin served as NAPIM’s executive director.

Cal Sutphin joined the NAPIM Board of Directors in 1986, where he still serves, and was elected treasurer and a member of the Executive Committee in 1993. After serving as vice president, he was elected president of NAPIM in 1995, and served for two years while his brother was executive director. It is a tribute to their reputation for integrity that NAPIM’s members had no concerns about the two top leaders being from the same family.

During his term as president, Cal Sutphin made countless visits around the country on behalf of NAPIM.

“The two years he served as NAPIM president, he put in the time and visited just about every club,” Jimmy Sutphin said.

Even today, Cal Sutphin can be called upon to help out when needed by NAPIM or other organizations.

“I always tell Jim Coleman that if there is a need to have someone come in, I’ll get back to him,” he said.

Mr. Sutphin is also active in local organizations. Mr. Sutphin was elected chairman of the Printing and Graphic Communication Association (PGCA), the industry group representing printers in metropolitan Washington, D.C. He is the first non-printer to receive the honor in the club’s 88-year history.

“Local printing organizations are very important,” he said. “It’s important to be of service. I began my career following in the footsteps of my dad and Jimmy in that regard. I served as an officer in Craftsmen’s Clubs in Cleveland, OH, Columbus, OH and Washington, D.C.; the Direct Marketing Club of Cleveland; and with the Printing Industries of America affiliates in Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.”

Today, he continues to be an active member of the Printing Industries of Maryland, the PGCA and the Washington Litho Club.

Playing Baseball With the Orioles
A baseball fan, Mr. Sutphin quickly found himself rooting for the Baltimore Orioles once he relocated to the area. For 16 of the past 17 years, he has participated in the club’s February baseball camp, only missing once when NAPIM needed him to travel on business to Australia. In addition, Mr. Sutphin also serves on the camp’s advisory board.

“One of my hobbies is participating in the Baltimore Orioles’ baseball camp every February in Sarasota, FL,” Mr. Sutphin said. “Sixteen of the past 17 years, I have played baseball – two games a day – for eight days. I slide, bat and throw at the local high school before I go out to the camp, and I try to stay in decent shape the rest of the year.”

Cal Sutphin with Hall-of-Famers Earl Weaver, former Baltimore Orioles manager, above, and Frank Robinson, former Orioles All-Star outfielder and current Montreal Expos manager.

The Future
Without a doubt, Mr. Sutphin considers himself tremendously lucky, and compares his good fortune to that of Cal Ripken, the former Baltimore Orioles’ shortstop who set the consecutive games played record a few years back.

“Cal has said many times that he didn’t begin his career wanting to become baseball’s ‘iron man,’ but he just wanted to play every day,” Mr. Sutphin said. “He was blessed to have extraordinarily good luck and good health. I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have enjoyed what I’ve been doing.”

Those who count Mr. Sutphin as a friend would most certainly consider it their good fortune to know him as well.