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The ‘Independent Advantage’

By Matthew M. Davis

November 13, 2023

I’m so proud and honored to be your AICC chairman. I have been attending AICC events for as long as I can remember; in fact, many of our family vacations growing up were tied to AICC events. I would not be the leader I am, and we would not be the company we are, without participating in AICC. We learn something at every AICC meeting. AICC has been there to help guide Packaging Express at each stage of our growth. I love this industry, and I am excited to be an ambassador for AICC.

I am third generation in the box business. My grandfather, T.J. McLaughlin, was in the business from the 1930s through the 1960s. My father, Jim Davis, got into the business and eventually was fortunate enough to partner with the DeLine family. Our families have been intertwined for the past 40-plus years. You cannot say boxes in Colorado and not think of the DeLine and Davis families. The DeLine family has been great to us, and my older brother, Pete, is the general manager at DeLine Box. We could not do what we are doing without that strategic partnership.

The box business is in my blood. My uncles, Jack McLaughlin (CCI and Greif) and Ray Ryden (Boise Cascade); cousin, Jim McLaughin (WSA-USA); and my younger brother, Tom Davis (Bahmueller and BCM Inks and now partner at Brown Brothers Harriman), all work or have worked in the industry. I have also hired my cousin’s son, Andrew Bell (fourth generation for our family), into the business.

Part of what we are going to do in the next year is embrace and honor the past. There are no overnight success stories in the box business. It takes years of hard work to build something really special. We have a rich history as an Association, and we are going to have a big celebration in the spring in Palm Desert, California, to honor 50 years of AICC. We will recognize and celebrate all of those individuals who have been a part of forming this wonderful organization.

During their term, the chairman or chairwoman designates a theme for the year. My theme is what I call the “Independent Advantage.” The Independent Advantage is how we survive and strive. It’s our edge. It’s part of what makes up our competitive advantage, but it is deeper than that. It is doing what other companies cannot do or are not willing to do. It starts with the right people. It’s how we treat people, internally and externally. It’s how we operate our business. It’s the personal connections we must have with our employees and our customers.

The Independent Advantage is how we communicate. It is consistent communication and, more importantly, the ease of communication with our employees, customers, vendors, and peers. It’s entrusting and empowering our employees and coworkers with the tools to say yes. It’s giving your team the responsibility and power to influence your business. It is the process of trusting your employees to do the right thing when no one is watching. It’s an ease of doing business for your customers and vendors.

As independents, we are creative, flexible, and scrappy. We can pivot on a dime. But the advantage is realized by the companies that can do it and do it well.

It’s speed! It’s our sense of urgency that other companies may not have. It’s training your employees and showing them how they impact your business. It’s how we gain, train, retain, and, most importantly, reward. It’s operating with an entrepreneurial spirit.

It is leaning on and learning from other companies in our industry. AICC is the network, but the Independent Advantage is how we use the network. I am looking forward to a great year, and it truly is a privilege to represent all of you.

Matthew M. Davis
President, Packaging Express
AICC Chairman