Boxing with Dennis Vinson, owner of Signature Packaging in Jackson

Monday, March 23, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Dennis Vinson of Signature Packaging and Paper LLC.

Southeast Missouri may not be suburban Atlanta, but Dennis Vinson doesn't mind. Since he moved his Signature Packaging business to Jackson in late 2006, Vinson has enjoyed life in a smaller town and expanded his clientele. The packaging company began production April 18, 2007, in its 80,000-square-foot facility at 1302 Lenco Ave., with room to expand for 200,000 more square feet of space. Vinson said his company has received numerous awards, such as the 2007 Minority Manufacturer Supplier of the Year by the St. Louis Minority Business Development Council.

Southeast Missourian business reporter Brian Blackwell recently visited with Vinson to discuss more about his industry. A native of New Brunswick, N.J., Vinson has a wife, Joy, and three children, Crystal, Chelsea and Dennis II.

Q: Why did you move your company to Southeast Missouri?

A: I've been in the industry for some time. I'd been wanting to go out on my own and that opportunity came around in 2003 when I founded this company. I started with 15 employees in the Atlanta area. Two years later we were awarded a contract to do business with Procter and Gamble here in Jackson. All my employees stayed there when I moved. THE EMPLOYEES STAYED IN ATLANTA? DOING WHAT? HE HAD TO HIRE ALL NEW PEOPLE? I looked at it as a small-town USA family-type community. We're close enough to the metro areas of St. Louis and Memphis, which makes it a pretty good fit for us.

Q: Who are your role models?

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Dennis Vinson of Signature Packagin and Paper, LLC.

A: My dad was one. He was hard working and had a lot of strong values that made a huge impression on me. My mother was a very spiritual leader and had a profound impact on me also. Another was Dick Fitzpatrick, one of my early bosses for a company I worked for called AM International in East Hanover, N.J.. He was a leader that instilled values in me from a leadership standpoint and shaped my management style, which is to surround myself with high-quality people that are experts and allow them to do what they do best.

Q: It's obvious that you care about spending time with your family. How much do you value that family time?

A: My kids play sports and are on traveling teams. In addition to sports our kids are involved in other afterschool activities. A lot of my time after work and on the weekends is spent taking them to practices and games here locally and out-of-town. But we do it all together. Even though we run around, that's quality family time. We do these activities as a family unit and that's what's important.

Q: What have been the biggest issues for your company?

A: With the economy the way it is, health care is the biggest issue. Things are slow in this downturn but my company has always been able to weather the situation no matter how bad it may be. We've always been a lean operation, so that's nothing new. I'm always looking at ways to cut costs but grow. Growth will never stop.

Q: When you were in Atlanta the pace must have been a little faster than it was when you moved to an area with a population that's less than one of Atlanta's suburbs. Talk a little about what the pace has been here in Southeast Missouri.

A: True, it has been a slower pace. But business is business. A deal is a deal. You come to the table well equipped and prepared and you'll have success. Our customer base continues to grow. Though we started off with all Procter and Gamble and they have a bulk of our business, we've added more companies we've served in addition to them in just a few years.

Q: What is the secret to your success?

A: Timing is everything. One key is bringing on good people and being persistent. We want to go after niche markets. We have state-of-the-art equipment with good service and quality. That's what separates us from our competitors. The paper industry as a whole has suffered. But for independent ones we've seen opportunities for further growth, forward thinking and expansion to other parts of the country. We haven't deviated from our business plan. There's a lot on the horizon in 2009 and we hope our plans will come to fruition. We're looking forward to good times in a down economy.

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