Michael Leaventon calls it just “a nice, long weekend to move my stuff.”
Still, you can’t miss the significance of Independence Day 1996, when he was sent by his family from Northeast Ohio to the Columbus area to lead a second printing company.
“I came down to Columbus to be our plant manager and within a couple of months took over the whole operation,” says Leaventon, who was just 25 at the time.
Since he was 13 years old, he has been working with the family business.
“I started sweeping the floors and emptying the garbage cans,” he says.
He’s come a long way in his current post at Precision Printing Co. of Columbus Inc.
“When I took over, we had 16 employees and did under $1 million in sales,” he says. “Now we have 45 employees and will do about $5.5 million in sales this year.”
Growing the company so much obviously required significant changes in the 16-year-old Columbus operation.
First, Leaventon has focused more on advertising agencies and business-to-business direct marketing and direct mail for his client base.
“Columbus is kind of a unique market compared to most,” he says. “A lot of the print dollars are controlled by the advertising agencies in Columbus. We identified that as an area to grow in.”
He also added sales representatives to help carry out the company’s goals.
A more daring step, perhaps, has been Leaventon’s investment in new technology and new equipment.
In January 2000, he spent $700,000 on prepress equipment and computers, and early this year invested a whopping $2.5 million in a new press.
These were scary moves, he admits, but the company’s success — an average of 37 percent growth in each of the past four years — gave him confidence. In turn, he’s gained the confidence of clients such as Safelite AutoGlass, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories.
He also understands the advantages of working in a family business. His father and uncle run the Brecksville, Ohio, operation, so he often calls on them for advice.
“In general dealing with him, he’s always very conscious of his relationship with his elders,” says Gary Shamis, managing partner of SS&G Financial Services Inc., which serves Precision Printing. “His uncle and his father have been with the company 30-plus years. He’s still very respectful to the relationships, always has been.
“I think that’s just a sign of his maturity. He’s not a know-it-all; he definitely relies on the experiences of others,” says Shamis, who also serves on Leaventon’s board.
Leaventon calls Shamis the person he admires most in business.
“I think he’s really good at being a 1-minute manager,” Leaventon says. “He taught me to hire good people and let them do their job. That’s a difficult thing to do. I can’t say I’ve mastered it, but it’s an important lesson to be told.”
Leaventon also gains knowledge through his memberships in the American Marketing Association and the Advertising Federation.
He’s also quick to share his expertise with others. This year, he received an Involved Member recognition from the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce, where he serves on the board of trustees.
For the past four years, he’s served on various committees for the chamber-sponsored Westerville Music & Arts Festival, of which he’ll be chair next year.
“He’s quiet, but a doer,” says Westerville chamber president and CEO Janet Davis. “Even in board meetings he’s quiet, very methodical. When he expresses his opinions, they’re usually very well thought out.”
This year Leaventon was instrumental in helping festival organizers determine where to locate the artisans and musicians in the festival’s new location.
Davis surmises that Leaventon’s success as a business person comes from his commitment.
“What he says he’s going to do, he does it,” she says, adding, “He has very willing staff; they’re very positive. To me that’s a reflection that he must have a good work environment.”
Shamis doesn’t see Leaventon as quiet but, rather, cautious in new relationships or situations.
“He kind of takes it all in before he reacts,” he says.
“The impression I get about him is that he’s a lot wiser than his age would lead you to believe,” Shamis says. “Everybody makes mistakes, and I’m sure he makes his share of mistakes, but in his enthusiasm, his passion, his instincts for business, I think you see a very capable, well-matured business person in a very young individual.” How to reach: Michael Leaventon, Precision Printing Co. of Columbus Inc., 794-3555 or [email protected]
Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.
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Central Ohio business owners with exceptional business and community accomplishments are prime candidates for “Who to Know.” If you know a local entrepreneur who is active in the community and whose company is at least three years old, profitable and generates more than $1 million in annual sales, contact Senior Editor Joan Slattery Wall by phone at 428-2648 or by e-mail at [email protected].