2019 Newsmakers: Dennis Vinson

"No one has a lock on good ideas."

This is a core tenant of the leadership philosophy of Dennis Vinson, president and CEO of Signature Packaging & Paper in Jackson. He credits the success of his business to the 66 employees he leads each day.

"The basis and the success of Signature is all about the employees," Vinson says. "My leadership is there, but they make it happen everyday."

The quality of his leadership and his employees' care shows: Signature Packaging & Paper has won many awards throughout the years, including the Missouri State Fast Track Award in 2010 and Jackson Chamber Industry of the Year in 2011. For the past five years, they've made Black Enterprise's BE 100 List of the Nation's Largest Black-Owned Businesses. And two governors have visited their business, choosing Signature Packaging & Paper from businesses throughout the state at which to launch initiatives.

The company also focuses on sustainability, providing clients who ask for it packaging made out of 100 percent recycled product. Everything at the Signature Packaging & Paper plant is recycled, too: the scrap cardboard, the strapping the paper comes in, the ink. In addition, they are BRC-certified, a food safety certification they voluntarily attained to hold themselves to higher standards of cleanliness and manufacturing processes.

Vinson's leadership style is straightforward: invite people into the process. He asks employees at all levels of the operation, from manufacturing to administration, to contribute their ideas to improve processes. In addition, Vinson calls his operation "a company of second chance:" he employs veterans and people who have offenses in their past life.

Vinson works to ensure Signature Packaging & Paper fosters an environment employees want to be in: since Vinson started at the business in Jackson in 2007, there are five employees who haven't missed a day of work. Many others have had perfect attendance for one, five and 10 years. This has become a competition among employees, with the company giving out cash prizes for perfect attendance. Vinson also brings in a life coach once a month to talk companywide about life and job scenarios with a Biblical basis.

The fact that his family works with him is also important to Vinson: his daughter, a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, does HR and handles the pharmaceutical accounts. His son, a graduate of Central Methodist University, is completing the sales training program. His younger daughter, currently a SEMO student, works with him during the summer and part-time during the school year. And his wife handles the social media accounts and coordinates company events.

Vinson's involvement in bettering the community doesn't stop with the positive influence he contributes to his employees' lives. He is on The Bank of Missouri Advisory Board, Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents, SoutheastHEALTH System Board of Directors and the Board of Directors of Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET. He is also a member of a state business owners' group. In the past, he has served on the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Jackson Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Missouri Innovation Corporation of Southeast Missouri State University and the Missouri Governor's Economic Steering Committee.

Currently, he is also the chairman of the board for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In addition, he has worked on the 2030 Initiative at the state level, a project started in 2015 to cast vision and implement progress for the next 15 years of Missouri's economy.

Vinson says he tries to be a change agent in the community so businesses can thrive, providing economic value to employees and increasing economic value in the whole community and region. Despite his success, he remains humble as a believer in Christ. His ideas for change come from reading widely and listening to others' ideas in his pursuit of lifelong learning.

"I don't always want to be the smartest person in the room; I want to surround myself with other smart people so I can gain," Vinson says. "If I'm the smartest guy in the room, I'm in the wrong room. I need to change rooms, because I don't want to be the smartest. I want to be the guy who's trying to learn something from these other smart folks."