As we approach Father's Day, I want to take a look back at my father's career and his legacy. As a man in his 90s, Carlo LaManna has much to look back on with pride.
The road to innovation can take many paths. For my father, you could say a long career in printing began as a paperboy in Chicago. The ink on the page fascinated Carlo. Little did he know the journey it would take him on.
Carlo went to a technical school with dreams of being a pressman. He loved understanding how things worked in the printing process.
After graduation, he got his first job as a folder in a local bindery. Those were long, hard days but Carlo learned from every experience. Sometimes a job is more than just a job. Sometimes it is part of a calling.
His passion for printing soon led him to St. Paul, Minnesota, where there were better opportunities for work in post World War II America.
It was there he met Jack Vomela. Vomela had recently started a small print and die-cutting company. Carlo was hired as letterpress man for the Vomela Company.
While some perform a job, others think about its possibilities. For Carlo, the graphics and signage industry presented countless opportunities for innovation and the letterpress was an art form.Carlo was fascinated by the relief printing of the "type-high" bed and the crisp images left in the paper by the impressions from his press. He would take these machines apart and put them back together, allowing him to understand how the pieces could create a symphony.
People in the plant appreciated his dedication and curiosity. When a coworker faced a challenge, you’d hear someone say, "Carlo can do it."
Before long, the “Can Do” guy was promoted to Plant Manager at Vomela. Carlo not only supervised employees but began to think big when it came to the signage and graphics industry.
For instance, a challenge let to his engineering and commissioning of the first heat plate for Thompson National Press.
And one of Carlo’s most notable inventions was the kiss cutting process. It opened the door to a multi-billion dollar explosion in vinyl graphics sales. This solution to a tough challenge led to one of the most commonly used techniques in the entire signage industry.
Along the way, Carlo married and had eleven kids. I'm proud to be one of them. For the LaMannas, the world of printing was like our family farm.
When I started working for my father at Vomela in 1975, I knew virtually nothing about the business. But through the years, he would teach me countless life lessons about owning a company and creating a vision to successfully sell a business.
In 1980, when Jack Vomela retired, Carlo bought the entire company. During his tenure from the 1960s through the 80’s, Vomela experienced ups and downs. But through a “can do” attitude and an innovative mindset, Carlo expanded the company from 32 employees to more than 200, grossing upwards of $5 million in contract business with gross margins of over 80 percent.
Six years later, after 40 years of employment for Vomela, Carlo decided it was time to sell the business. He gave me the chance to be the buyer. Our four-year selling process opened my eyes to a new way of thinking, which I hope can provide perspective to other business owners looking to sell.
Today, I think about Carlo's legacy. I think about the thousands of employees who worked for him, some of who went on to create their own businesses. I’m proud of the doors my father opened for me in my print industry career, as well as those I had the courage to go through on my own.
I'm proud to have grown up in a printing family and now help empower family owned printing businesses.
Want to know about the best printing deal I ever made? It was between me and my father. This a very timely and personal episode as we prepare to celebrate Father's Day. Listen to this episode of my podcast.