What’s your “Why”?

Do you remember when you first started in the printing business?

I do.

It All Started When…

It was 1985, and it was my dad’s hobby in our basement. He had a beat up, old A.B.Dick 360 press with a chute delivery. I was ten years old and loved hanging out with my dad while he was learning the craft of offset printing. He would give me small responsibilities like letting him know when the chute was getting full, so he could take the printed sheets out of the press to make room for more.

Eventually, as I aged and matured, I was given more responsibilities. First, I learned to do wash-ups for him between jobs. Next, I learned to set the jobs up for him, but he would still run the jobs, managing ink coverage and paper feed issues. Through this process, by 1999, I had learned the craft of offset printing all the way to running four-color work on much larger equipment.

In 2006, I took over the company that my father started in our basement 20 years earlier. I realized around that time that even though I made the personal decision to make a career in the printing industry, I didn’t actually choose printing over any other industry. Printing was, and still is, the only thing that I have ever done, and I’ve never worked full time for any other company either.

An Accidental “Why”?

I give you all of this history to make a point: I didn’t choose the printing industry for any reason other than that I got to hang out with my dad.

I learned all the skills needed to thrive in a printing environment, but it was really all by “accident.” If I could pick any profession in the world as my occupation, I’m not sure what it would be, but I doubt it would be printing. Don’t get me wrong; I love the printing industry and what it has allowed me to accomplish, as well as the lifestyle that it has afforded me. I’m just not sure that it’s the best use of my personal skill set.

What’s Your Why For Being in Printing?

Regardless of what industry you are in, everyone has a “Why,” although not everyone has taken the time to consider what it is.

If you were to ask me why I got into printing, I would say, “So I could hang out with my dad.” This is my “Why.”

I challenge you to figure out what your “Why” is. Once you figure it out, it will give you a filter through which you can make better decisions. Your “Why” will help you decide what work to do and what work to turn away. Your “Why” may also help you determine if you are in the wrong industry!

In any event, once you identify your why, keep it in front of you.

I recently watched “Hard Knocks” on HBO. Christian Kirksey addressed his whole team and challenged them to figure out what their “Why” was. Once they figured it out, they went on to write it down and place it somewhere where they would see it every day. (Side note: I’m not sure this exercise works for all teams. After all, it remains to be seen if finding a bunch of “whys” will turn the Cleveland Browns around, but keep this in mind, just in case they do!)

If discovering your “Why” is a meaningful exercise, you may want to take it a step further, and help your entire organization discover its “Why” as well. If so, I highly recommend the book “Starting With Why” by Simon Sinek.

For what it’s worth, I’m 43 years old now, and my dad is 70. He still comes into the office almost every day. These days, his only function in the company is making the daily bank deposit. But, I still get to hang out with my dad and fulfill my why every day!


Written by

Derek Brooks

Owner, Brandywine Printing

Derek owns and operates Brandywine Printing Inc., a family-owned business founded in the early 80s. Brandywine Printing helps businesses succeed by providing printed materials that improve their image and make them more efficient. Derek and his wife Kathy have been married for 23 years and have one daughter, Shiloh, who is pursuing a degree in music education. They are enjoying the empty nest life!