Born to Print
At 21 years old, you wouldn’t expect to be buying your first printing company, but for Glenn Strause, the timing was perfect.
Strause was the manager of a local print shop in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1981 when he and his father decided to buy some equipment from a reverend who was running a small print operation in the back of his house. They set it up in their basement and started printing envelopes, coffee bags for a local coffee company and other small offset jobs on the side.
In 1983, Strause decided to go full time, and Strause Printing was born. The two men rented a building, added equipment, hired a staff and started doing letterpress work for local businesses. Word spread fast, and soon Strause Printing was doing numbering, perforating and other work for many companies and printers in the Lehigh Valley.
“Allentown is not that big,” laughs Strause, now director of Lehigh University Printing and Mailing Services. “So we all knew each other.”
Because Strause Printing did not have a salesperson yet, it relied heavily upon word of mouth, especially from other printers, many of whom couldn’t provide the services that Strause offered.
“I used to call that my ‘back door business,’ ” Strause explains. “My back door business with the other printers was huge. Numbering, perforating, scoring, diecutting, imprinting—we had two people full time, that’s all they did.”
When his father retired, Strause bought him out and moved the company to a larger location. He continued to build the business and do some subcontracting through other printers.
At one point, the company was numbering and perforating all of the applications for the New York City Marathon, Strause contends, doing the work for a bigger printer that needed the service.
“It was always something new,” Strause says. “It kept me motivated.”
Back to his Roots
Strause was made for the printing world. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, he began taking print shop classes in junior high school, following in his father’s footsteps.
“I learned the old California Job Case,” he says. “I always had so much fun in there.”
Strause admits that he wasn’t on the college track, so he pursued Lehigh Valley Vocational School after encouragement from his print shop teacher. From there, he worked at a local quick print shop in his senior year.
“I’m 53 and I’ve never been without a job. The printing industry has always been good to me,” Strause says.
After working at local quick print shops for a couple of years, Strause began running Cedar Crest College’s print shop in Allentown. Four years later, a local businessman who had an office supply shop, wanted to start a printing company and hired Strause as the manager.
It was at this time that Strause and his father bought their own printing equipment and started Strause Printing. After years of being in the business, Strause, a forward thinker, realized times were changing and that eventually, everything would be digital.
“I saw the writing on the wall,” he says. “I saw where everything was going and thought, ‘Do I want to invest that much money and time into the business?’”
That was when Lehigh University called looking for a director to lead its print shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So in 1998, Strause decided to sell his company and head to the university.
When Strause started at Lehigh University as director of Printing and Mailing Services, the in-plant was running two offset presses, a small bindery area, a Xerox DocuTech and a wide-format printer that produced about one poster per month (a far cry from the 1,500 posters that the team prints per year now). What’s more, the print shop was facing deficits of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a bad contract that was signed years earlier.
After assessing the situation, Strause realized that for some small jobs, the team was spending more money on gas to run jobs between printing and shipping than those jobs actually cost. The 1,800-acre campus is set on two sides of a mountain, so Strause decided it was best to remove the smaller jobs and focus on big jobs, training, adding new equipment, reassigning leases and bringing in a new vendor. His efforts paid off. Within two years, the in-plant was profitable.
The student mailing center was also put under Strause’s jurisdiction. It covered approximately 5,000 square feet and included some 5,000 mailboxes. After relocating the office to a 120-square-foot space, Strause and his team converted it to the first fully digitized post office in any university in the country, he says. Strause explains that the mail team is now delivering mail and packages in record time. Students simply scan their ID cards at a kiosk and a concierge service brings their packages out, averaging around one minute to locate and deliver.
Strause knows the importance of adding value and he is constantly looking for the latest breakthrough in technology that will let him offer new services to his customers.
“It’s about getting out in front,” he stresses. “I want to be offering things that people have never heard of.”
Although Strause plans to retire from Lehigh University eventually, he says he would like to get into consulting at some point during his career.
When he’s not working, Strause spends time with his wife and three children and enjoys cooking, especially Italian food. He coaches two soccer teams in the Lehigh Valley, spurred by his daughter playing the sport, and he will be taking the position of president of the 80-team soccer club starting this month.
Related story: Thinking Outside the Mailbox