Martin J. Blair
Martin J. Blair is Chief Executive of E. John Schmitz & Sons Incorporated, one of the largest and best printing companies in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and one of the few that is still privately and independently owned.
E. John Schmitz & Sons, in fact, has been family owned for nearly 80 years, and has a strong, loyal customer base in and around Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The privately owned printer has won countless awards for their quality work, and Martin is a strong leader who has come to enjoy the many benefits of being an LXCouncil member, where he can interact and learn from other leaders in the business world.
A graduate of Baltimore’s esteemed Calvert Hall and the famed Citadel, Martin has been preparing for a leadership role his entire life, and has learned from the Schmitz family as he ascended to CEO of E. John Schmitz & Sons. As the business has been built by this family and has thrived over three generations, it is obvious that the Schmitz family recipe is a recipe for sustained success.
The following interview offers a little insight into Martin’s thoughts and experiences. The company’s impressive client base boasts large entities like Legg Mason and the Baltimore Ravens.
LXCouncil: What has been a specific experience that you can share about what being involved in a peer group has meant to you as a leader or to your business?
Martin: I tend to be very outspoken, and so I have taken a leadership role in our peer group at LX Council. The great thing about this group is the accountability it requires, as there are so many great, established, experienced leaders that you interact with. This means I have to come in prepared on topics, as everyone else certainly will be. So I have learned more about accountability. Also I have been able to discuss leadership issues that I can’t routinely discuss with anyone, as you need a peer who understands these things.
Dealing with experienced leaders who give tremendous feedback has been impactful in a very positive way. I used to do all my thinking about such things in the shower. Now, I have a group to talk with. Recently I asked all my fellow CEO’s in group which is their preferred leadership style, a leader who cares about employees and customers – who is emotionally invested beyond the bottom line – or someone who is solely focused on the bottom line. The response I received is that you must be you; you must have your own style. That has helped reinforce my perspective on how we operate at E. John Schmitz & Sons.
LXCouncil: In general, how did the advice or/insight help your business or you as a leader?
Martin: It provided me positive proof that how I lead works and that I should stick with it. I always put employees and customers first. They are people. I know their families, I am invested in them for more than money, and this has led to very loyal, excellent employees and a phenomenal customer base. I am very proud to say that we have zero turnover in regards to customers and employees. Every member of our company works together as a team; they have taken a sense of pride and ownership in the company. Because of this we have survived the harsh economic downturn we have all felt since 2008 as well as industry downsizing.
LXCouncil: What do you do that is unique, and what differentiates your company in the market?
Martin: We are one of the last privately held printing companies in the region. That is saying something, as almost all privately owned printers have folded or been devoured by larger companies. We will be 80 years old next year, and that is saying something. We are a 3rd generation family owned business, as well. Really, in the 1980’s we separated from the rest of the market and became a high end quality printer that took on many difficult jobs that most other companies did not want or could not do. We didn’t focus on the bottom line, we focused on building a high quality customer base, and we took difficult jobs from graphic artists and focused on attention to detail. This all started under the stellar leadership of E. John Schmitz, whose brother Paul is now President of this company. Sadly E. John Schmitz passed away in 1989 due to cancer, but we continue his great work.
We have won five Q awards, the most in the Mid-Atlantic region, which is awarded for quality in printing. We won so many awards we dropped out for a while as we were hogging them. But about two years ago we re-entered, and we won them again.
Simply put, we take each and every job regardless of size and we strive to exceed expectations, turning ordinary into extraordinary. For this reason we have many decades old customers who are like family, very loyal.