A primitive proprietorship called Tex Lyon’s Printing altered my life’s course; leading to the development of tools for totally systematizing small businesses around the globe.
Walking into that very small print shop for the first time at age fourteen; somehow, I knew the printing world would play a big part in my life.
Etched in my memory are small dimly-lit rooms; paper strewn floors and printing equipment humming rhythmically, spitting out printed sheets. AND that wonderful smell of printer’s ink!
Surprisingly, the cluttered shop seemed eerily familiar, as if I had seen it all before. Oh, to have just one photo of that scene!
My older brother Billy, employed at this little print shop, was running a small press at the tender age of seventeen.
Remember Gomer Pyle’s “Go-ol-leee”? Well, I guess that was me, as I was able to see up-close the internal workings of those wonderful old printing presses.
It was mesmerizing to watch those presses with hundreds of little gears and countless components turning, pushing, and pulling each other. All in an effort to produce printed sheets of paper. Each one seemed like a small miracle to me. I was hooked!
Even at that young age, to my mind Arthur Lyons, nicknamed TEX, was an eccentric old proprietor whose method of operating seemed primitive.
However, enjoying just hanging out with my brother Billy in that printing world was pure pleasure. Yep, drinking Cokes mixed with the smell of ink; what could be better than that!?
As fate would have it, the opportunity came to work with my brother part-time for a summer in 1965. I ran errands, collated NCR forms, cleaned the cluttered floors, and took out mountains of trash containing wasted printed sheets.
All that, for a cash payment of fifty cents an hour. I was still under age to collect a real check.
Finding Inspiration in a Primitive Small Business
Looking back on those days, it’s a wonder how ole’ Tex made any profit, given the number of mistakes, poorly printed products, and the badly maintained equipment. To this day, I’ve never witnessed more wasted paper hitting the floor, due to faulty equipment. Not to mention, inexperienced press and bindery operators. Sorry Billy! Remember, he was only 17.
Truth is, at that time never having seen another print shop, I assumed this wild-west, shoot-from-the-hip method of operating was “normal”.
Yep, the two press operators were walking on 4-5 inches of paper, covering the entire press and bindery areas. You could not see the floor tiles. Fact is, if the Fire Marshall had walked into that shop, old Tex would have spent 30 days in jail for fire code violations.
Okay, I’m reminiscing a bit too much! But, this is where budding entrepreneurs find inspiration for helping a small proprietorship like old Tex. Also other small business owners, like Mr. Carl Williamson, who gave me my first real job as a press operator.
Sometimes, I wish I could travel back in time to share with Carl Williams proprietor of Kennedy Print Shop and Tex Lyons the wonderful tools for small shop management. They include features for quality assurance and preventive maintenance, etc.
I would give them a tour of lean, and thank them for being the inspiration for my developing systems for cleaning up the messes in any proprietorship.
Did I mention? Great system work!