Lifetime Achievenment Award Winner 2008 – Harry V. Quadracci


Small Business Times has presented its 2008 Bravo! Entrepreneur Award for Lifetime Achievement posthumously to Harry V. Quadracci, founder of Quad/Graphics Inc.

The award was presented to the Quadracci family on Harry’s behalf at the fourth annual BizTech Expo at Wisconsin State Fair Park on Thursday, May 1.

The Bravo! Entrepreneur Award for Lifetime Achievement is given each year to a southeastern Wisconsin entrepreneur who has exemplified excellence in business leadership.

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Quadracci died on July 29, 2002, but left behind an American entrepreneurial legacy that is withstanding the test of time.

His entrepreneurial adventure had its genesis in a 1969 labor dispute at the W.A. Krueger Co., a printing firm his father had co-founded. Harry had worked in a variety of management-level positions since 1962. Delegated to handle negotiations between the company and the union, Quadracci encountered conflicting pressures from Krueger’s top management and the board of directors, both of which were imbued in short-term, bottom-line thinking. Feeling stymied in his efforts to succeed, Quadracci resigned and set his sights on creating his own company, with employees and clients working as partners.

Using a $35,000 second mortgage on his home and capital raised from a handful of associates, Quadracci launched Quad/Graphics on July 13, 1971, in an abandoned millwork factory in Pewaukee.

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The company’s first big break came in 1978, when it landed a contract to print Newsweek magazine. Quad/Graphics continued to grow and opened another large printing center in Sussex.

Along the way, the company established a network of imaging sites and photography studios, as well as a global presence through international partnerships in Argentina, Brazil and Poland.

Quadracci continued his bold innovation by creating QuadMed, a medical division that provides more affordable health care for its employees. QuadMed operates five clinics for its parent company, as well as clinics for Briggs & Stratton and Miller Brewing Co.

From humble beginnings, Quad/Graphics rose to become the largest privately held printing company in the world, with annual sales of more than $2 billion.

A hallmark of Quad/Graphics’ operational strategies is perpetual investment in new technologies. In fact, Quad’s outdated equipment is often sold to its competitors.

Quadracci’s widow, Betty, is publisher of Milwaukee Magazine and president of the QuadCreative Group. Their youngest son, Joel, succeeded Harry’s brother, Tom, as president and chief executive officer of Quad/Graphics last year.

Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of Harry and Betty, is a director with the Windhover Foundation, a philanthropic organization funded by the Quadracci Family and Quad/Graphics.

SBT asked Joel Quadracci to share the three most important business lessons he learned from his father. Joel responded:

1. “Business has a greater responsibility than just being successful. It has a responsibility to invest in the communities that surround it.”

2. “Business is generally a logical thing. If it starts to seem too complicated, it probably is. Therefore, you need to rethink what it is you are doing and simplify it.”

3. “People are people, and we all put our pants on the same way. Just because someone may have a different title or different status in society does not make them better than the next guy.”

Previous winners of the Bravo! Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement Award have included George Dalton, co-founder of Fiserv Inc. and Novo 1 Inc.; Robert Kern, founder of Generac Power Systems Inc.; and Joseph Zilber, founder and chairman of Towne Realty Inc.

The Quadracci family received the award on behalf of Harry at Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards Luncheon on Thursday, May 1, at the BizTech Expo at Wisconsin State Fair Park.

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