There have been a lot of interesting stories about how top leaders in the ink industry got their start in the business, and William (Bill) Miller’s tale is right up there with the best. Mr. Miller, the 2013 recipient of the Ault Award, the most prestigious honor from the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), was serving drinks at a bar when opportunity knocked.
“In 1976, I was bartending in Maryland, unsure of where my future would lead,” said Mr. Miller. “I got to know many of the local customers, including one who worked at Capitol Printing Ink. One day he asked to me to join his company, so I took the leap and never looked back.”
Now the president of Flint Group’s Print Media Division in North America and Europe, Mr. Miller has risen through the ranks over the years, starting out in Capitol Printing Ink’s factory and labs and moving into sales and leadership roles. His dedication to Flint Group and the ink industry is well known, and he received NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award in 2008.
Joining the Ink Industry
During his early days at Capitol Printing Ink, a Washington, D.C.-based commercial sheetfed and heatset ink manufacturer, Mr. Miller had the opportunity to learn a lot about the ink industry from its leaders, beginning with Elwood Murphy, who hired Mr. Miller away from the bar.
“Not only did Elwood Murphy believe in me and give me a chance, but he taught me a lot about making ink and providing technical support,” Mr. Miller recalled. “Doug Henderson, also of Capitol Ink, gave me my first opportunity in sales.”
In 1986, with an eye on increasing its presence on the East Coast, Flint Ink acquired Capitol Printing Ink, and Mr. Miller quickly added new responsibilities. In particular, Mr. Miller took on leadership of the publication side of Flint Ink; under his leadership, Flint Group, then Flint Ink, rose from 3% of the publication heatset market to a market leader in less than 10 years.
“Many of my career highlights involve milestones that, early in my career, I never imagined that I would ever attain,” Mr. Miller said. “It has been very exciting and rewarding to take responsibility for increasingly larger areas of the company, from being named vice president of the Heatset Ink division in 1993 to vice president of the Publication Inks division in 1997, and even my recent appointment as president of our Print Media groups in North America and Europe.
“It’s been remarkable and humbling to reach these high points and to use these roles to drive growth,” Mr. Miller added. “Of course, for me as for all of us, achievements are linked to the individuals I have worked for and with over the years.”
In particular, Mr. Miller noted the influence of Greg Lawson and Howard Flint in his career.
“Greg Lawson, still an active member of the ink industry, taught me a lot about using data and tough love to drive results,” Mr. Miller said. “From Howard Flint, I learned a great deal about customer appreciation. Even as the owner of the then-named Flint Ink, Howard remained truly customer-focused.”
The ink industry has changed over the 33 years Mr. Miller has been in it. “The ink industry has changed dramatically,” Mr. Miller said. “This was a growing, vibrant industry when I first joined, but is now a declining, continually consolidating industry. The challenge of continuing to make money today is much more difficult than the old-time challenge of growing in a growing industry. To succeed in today’s market, leaders need a unique and significantly different approach.”
A strong supporter of NAPIM as well as various printing associations, Mr. Miller serves as a NAPIM Board Member. He served as the program chairman in 2007 and was the keynote speaker at the 2010 NPIRI Technical Conference.
“Trade organizations are an important resource, especially for an industry like ours that is relatively small,” Mr. Miller said. “NAPIM fills an important need with its many services, from member education to market data reports to SHE resources and guidance. I also value their ability to bring ink companies together as one voice when it has been important to respond quickly to regulations or other industry activities.”
Aside from NAPIM, Mr. Miller has been a long-time member of the Web Offset Association, where he served on the supplier board from 1999 and president in 2006. He also is a supporter of the Gravure Association of America (GAA), the Gravure Catalog and Insert Council (GCIC) and other organizations, and encourages his team to participate in these organizations.
While the ink industry keeps him busy, Mr. Miller still tries to find time to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with his family.
“These days, time doesn’t allow for many hobbies, but I love the outdoors and I try to go hunting once a year,” Mr. Miller said. “Most of all, I cherish time with my family. My wife and I travel to see our kids and grandkids whenever we can.”
Mr. Miller said he was surprised and honored to receive the Ault Award. “My first thought: surprise,” Mr. Miller said. “I am proud to have received this award, and I am greatly honored to be a part of the group of fellow Ault award winners, who I respect and admire.”
However, his colleagues said that there should be no surprise that Mr. Miller would be selected for the Ault Award.
“Bill Miller exemplifies the very strengths that the Ault Award honors,” said Flint Group CEO Antoine Fady. “He has demonstrated a long commitment to, and passion for, the industry. Within Flint Group, he is vitally instrumental to driving and delivering success. He has played, and continues to play, a core role in making Flint Group the number two supplier in nearly every market sector. Bill’s influence extends beyond Flint Group and beyond North America, with a strong global influence and dedication to the industry at large. The Ault Award is a great and well deserved recognition of Bill’s achievements. I, and other Flint Group managers and employees, feel a great sense of pride on Bill’s behalf.”