A conversation with Mary Lawrence
Mary Lawrence, President, Richards Graphic Communications, Inc.
NAWBO Chicago Member in: 2013
Give us a thumbnail of your journey to serving as president for Richards Graphic Communications?
Becoming president was quite unexpected to me. Printing suffered a severe downturn with the advent of the internet. We needed a fresh approach, but we were confident that we had a solid company and that we could not only survive but regenerate once more into a vibrant organization. Today we focus on three main areas: 1) providing security for the data used in our client mailings; 2) following our clients' corporate brand standards; and 3) providing detailed procurement reports using client cost centers. To us, quality printing is just a given. I would encourage others to follow a similar path. Find out what is really driving your clients crazy – and fix that.
How did you discover NAWBO Chicago?
NAWBO hit my radar three years ago, shortly after I completed the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program.
How do you get your creative mojo going? How can self-described "non-creative" business leaders think outside the box?
1) Get outside your comfort zone by attending different events. Let serendipity play its role in bringing you new people and ideas. 2) Always listen to what your clients are asking for… they will give you the best suggestions. 3) Don’t feel you need to have all of the answers, ask your team for feedback, bounce new concepts around. And, as Ariana Huffington says: “sometimes you have to let things marinate.”
Has being a certified woman-owned printing and communications firm given you traction?
It’s been very important, but it’s not a magic bullet. We have a long sales cycle and it takes time to develop relationships that turn into clients. With that said, being WBE certified has been very useful to us. It’s protected us with some of our very large clients who are constantly looking to shrink their vendor pool. Also, many of our clients have contracts with government agencies who mandate MBE/WBE participation.
What has been one of your biggest failures/disappointments that led to one of your biggest achievements/milestones?
We had a tech company as a client, and we were producing the sales collateral for their 800 sales reps across the country. They had been using our online portal to host their literature. At one point, their lead designer asked if we would change our portal to be more user-friendly. We took the leap and agreed, undergoing a massive site redesign. It was a huge success with their sales team and that vision catapulted us into creating custom apps for many other clients. Six years later, the tech company is still one of our most important clients.
How involved are you in getting new business?
I am heavily involved in developing new business. I’m lucky because, with a strong family support system, I can focus on finding clients who would benefit from our services.
Which NAWBO event was your favorite this year?
The THRIVE conference is my must-attend event. It’s a chance to reconnect with my NAWBO friends. I also love having the opportunity to listen to the speakers as they reveal their career journey – the highlights as well as lessons learned. I always walk away feeling inspired and motivated to bring that energy back to Richards.
Any future trends you see for women in the creative space?
The future is open to us, and our daughters, and we need to remember the women before us who broke through barriers that we take for granted. I see women asking for (and getting) a bigger piece of the pie. Personally, my confidence has increased just by watching other successful women business owners. I am now asking our clients for larger projects, knowing that Richards has the capability to deliver. As our companies grow, we can access programs sponsored by NAWBO to help ensure we make the best decisions at each phase of our journey.