FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Tony Militano
January 14, 2014
Born in Winnipeg, 2nd born in a 4 kid family, mom and dad were immigrants from Italy. She worked in shmata business, he worked for CNR. Their education focus, since they didn’t have any, was intense and relentless. All 4 got a post-secondary education.
Tony Militano , President of CarbonCopyDigital attended St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg where he focused on football, basketball, soccer and baseball – then Red River College where he took Business, studied marketing, got elected president of the student union where his intrigue with politics began.
Early career days involved sales (Gage Publishing) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, a move/promotion to Calgary which he initially hated (though you wouldn’t know it today). A move to Riley’s in sales in the early days of laser printing lasted 2 years before he got the travel bug. At 25-26 he explored Asia and Australia, returned to Calgary and Riley’s where he spent 15 yrs, but he wanted more than Sales Manager. In 2000 an opportunity to buy the Carbon Copy business came up – and he took the leap. Tony says, “It had 4 employees, which we quickly grew to 12. It seemed like a good place to make a reasonable living and not wear a tie.”
But things started booming – partly from hard work, partly because a major competitor fumbled and thed dropped the ball. Fast-forward to today, with 60 employees, 35th Anniversary in full swing – he is a hard man to find in his seat for very long. I recently got my turn to interview him. He’s got a great new coffee brewer too – thanks, it was fantastic! We met in his office above the Beltline plant – he tells me the location doesn’t matter in terms of receiving orders electronically, but it matters a great deal when it is time to deliver them when everyone else is stuck in traffic.
I asked Tony how he sees his business, and his industry, faring over the next 90 days?
… business is very good, but we have to go out and earn it! Lots happening in Alberta, very busy in Calgary and Edmonton, Kelowna too – no need or desire to chase after customers in other markets.
And over the next 5 years?
…. moving and managing information, emergence of non-traditional competitors, importance of APPS. Impact of technology, especially on short-run orders, will grow. Records management will grow in importance. In our firm, signage production and colour processes will be a large part of our growth.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… not always about lowest price. Trust. Negotiation. We don’t change suppliers often. We are loyal to people who look after us.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Tony Militano and CarbonCopy Digital – why have you been chosen over others?
… we make it easy for customers to do business with us. Convenience, fast service – we are good at it. We make decisions quickly. Customers judge us by how we solve problems.
Do you have a succession plan?
… my kids are too young. We did a re-org, got back to grass roots basics. I’d like to work less. I’ll need to replace me with someone with good financial management skills, as I have – because little things need attention, a strong part of why this business is successful.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… like any small business owner, I worry about losing customers, staff doing the right things, cash flow, details, people.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… parents, my dad especially. He was old school. Your word is your word. He inspired me to take risks, taught me work habits, initiative – to do things myself. Bill Creighton and Terry Sparks at Riley’s – they taught me ethics, to take care of the customer.
Do you have a hero?
… Bill Comrie (The Brick) ad Ted Rogers (Rogers Communications) – they took risk, got to lead, and had luck on their side. General Patton – he had a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.
Work life balance?
… golf, travel, coaching soccer (my wife Kellie Bowden and I have 3 boys – 7, 10, 12). I’m a soccer fanatic – world cup. Compared to 10 yrs. ago, I have less patience – but it’s all good, because I love what I’m doing.
What do you read?
… not enough for pleasure. Lots of business journals, newspapers. I’m a history buff.
… an SUV Mercedes I’m not happy with. I’m looking at BMW’s and Land Rover. I drove BMWs for 20 years.
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