Digital Magazine

Experience Speaks: Stephen K. Schwartz

  • CEO of RiteMade Paper Converters Inc.

  • Hobbies | I've always had a love affair with golf, though recently it hasn't been returning the love.

  • How did you get into the converting business? Purely by accident. I didn't like what I was doing and was searching for an opportunity where I felt I could put my skills, drive, and work ethic to good use.

  • What do you most enjoy about your job? Truly every day is an adventure, even though some are not all that pleasant. In addition, as much as anything, I see myself as a teacher. I have a great desire to see this business endure well beyond my involvement and enjoy preparing others to take over the leadership.

  • What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out? That it wouldn't get easier. I've been in this business for 33 years and it's tougher and more competitive than ever. I assumed at some point my job would get easier, but I am as busy and involved today as I have ever been.

  • What do you least enjoy about your job? The world has become such a legal quagmire. There are just so many laws and regulations governing everthing we do anymore, especially in the human resources area. Having to deal with all these issues just takes away time from doing productive work.

  • What is the biggest threat to the converting industry right now? The weak economy is putting a lot of pressure on cash flow, and despite the recent ruling by the US Intl. Trade Commission in regard to certain imports of paper from China, I believe we must remain vigilant to the threat of unfairly priced foreign goods.

  • What makes you proud? We set up an ESOP and went deeply in debt in 1994 to buy out the original ownership. That we have turned this into a successful, 100% employee-owned business is a great testament to the hard work and dedication of all our employee-owners. We will retire the debt in 2009.

  • What advice would you give to someone starting out in this business? Get out and go to law school. If they choose to ignore that advice, then I'd say it's critical to learn this business from the ground up if you want to get to upper management. I don't think it matters what your basic background is, but unless you expand your knowledge, learn the products, processes, marketplace, and competition, and have some insight into other areas, such as legal and finance, you'll never be in a position to successfully lead a converting company.

  • How do you handle a difficult customer? If the customer's demands are not unreasonable, or if we have failed that customer in some way, then we do what is necessary to find a resolution and implement controls to prevent a recurrence. However, we've had customers who were consistently unreasonable or very unprofessional, and we have “fired” those customers. I am not a believer in the old axiom that “the customer is always right.”

About RiteMade Paper Converters Inc.

  • 2600 Bi-State Dr., Kansas City, KS 66103; 913-621-5000

  • www.ritemade.com

  • Founded 1952; 3 plants; 115 employees

  • Specialty | Custom imprinted security enhanced POS receipt rolls

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