Following the passing of Steve Jobs in October 2011, numerous stories about his brilliance, management style, mindset, and, most notably, his stubbornness began flooding the news and internet. His focus on quality was second to none and was illustrated well by one of Google’s executives.
Vic Gundotra, Google’s chief of engineering at the time, was attending a religious service on a Sunday morning with his family when an unknown caller began calling his phone over and over. When the service was over, Gundotra checked his voicemail and listened to a frantic message from Jobs. “Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss.” Before Vic even reached his car after the service, he called Jobs back, wondering what could be this important on a Sunday morning.
“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away,” Jobs said. “I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow. I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone, and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong, and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that OK with you?”
Quality standards in package printing have advanced tremendously over the past 10 years. The importance of achieving color on press has never been greater to the retailer who is looking for every little edge to stand out on a crowded shelf.
At Huston Patterson, this focus on quality has forced us to become a better printer. It isn’t unusual now for us to be asked to stay within a 2 delta E standard for PMS colors. It is common now for people to require samples with the delta E readings clearly marked on them, along with a complete ink density printout. Our clients are being put under the gun by their customers to achieve perfection in their boxes, so it has become our highest priority to see that the look, and sometimes the feel, is exactly what they want.
I wish I could say every sheet that leaves our facility is perfect, is exactly the way the client wants it, but perfection is something we are constantly striving for. Unfortunately, printing, like other forms of manufacturing, isn’t a perfect process. It involves people and machinery, and between the two, there are countless variables that can affect the outcome. That doesn’t stop us from aiming for a perfect print each and every time we start up the presses. Long ago, we recognized the quality movement in packaging printing and will continue to be innovators in the industry in order to exceed our clients’ expectations.
Jobs was so concerned about the yellow gradient on one letter of an extremely small icon that he was up early on a Sunday morning worrying about it. His attention to detail, his focus on quality turned Apple into one of the most iconic, influential, and successful companies of all time. His interaction with Gundotra that Sunday morning left a lasting impression on the man, to which I think we can all relate as professionals in the manufacturing industry striving for the highest possible quality standard.
“When I think about leadership, passion, and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January,” Gundotra said. “It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.”
Joe Morelli is vice president of sales and marketing for Huston Patterson Printers and is vice Chair of AICCs Associate board.