Life at Lithtex: Built from the Ground Up
In today’s busy, fast-paced world where people are always moving on to bigger and better things, home-grown Les Davis is a breath of fresh air. To hear this native Oregonian describe his journey in business and the evolution of his company, Lithtex Printing Solutions, his genuine passion and care for his company is evident. Soft-spoken with a gentle nature and welcoming smile, Les is a man able to look at what he’s accomplished with pride, be confident in his present surroundings, and move forward with a keen sense of direction, all supported by savvy business decisions and sound philosophy. Tarragon and I (Chelsea) thoroughly enjoyed our time learning about this local success story and the company he built from the ground up.
Les Davis is a self-motivated individual blessed with business savvy. Growing up on a farm in Tillamook, OR, he learned an exceptional work ethic at a young age. After his family moved to the big city of Hillsboro, Les spent his later high school years working for Noble Craft, a cabinet manufacturer, where he cleaned the saws. Here he was first introduced to print when being taught how to properly clean an old AB Dick press, sparking an interest in print that was never lost. Les graduated high school and took the Army up on their offer to pay for a recruit’s school of choice if he chose to stay enlisted for an additional year. During his time in the military, Les learned the ins and outs of running a press, including working both at the Pentagon processing orders and in Germany for Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. After completing his military service, he returned to Oregon, eager to start a career in the print industry. A few years later, Lithtex Printing Solutions was founded.
Lithtex originally started as the brainchild of Les and another local businessman. When it became apparent that the two operated under vastly different working philosophies, they parted ways. To make the split amicable, one retained the company’s name and phone number while the other retained the location. Les and his crew relocated, one of many moves they would make over the years. In the late 70s, Lithtex worked next door to a company that created film for printers. They decided the arrangement was a good fit for both and eventually merged the two companies. The mix was a success for many years until his partner retired and Les bought him out over a period of several years.
At a young age, Les was given an excellent piece of advice from his uncle: always purchase the building you use, never lease. As a result, Lithtex owned several buildings in various locations. Rather than continue to outgrow each one and search for new headquarters, Les made the business decision to purchase land and build his own custom facility. The previous investments of property and facilities paid off, literally, as they were sold to pay for this new project. In January of 2001, the Lithtex crew moved in and set up shop.
Throughout the years, Lithtex has experienced many of the same ups and downs that all businesses face in this economy, including streamlining operations and working smarter instead of harder. Throughout it all, Les has made keen observations that have allowed him to better lead his company. Whether it’s partnering with a business that runs parallel to his or knowing when to step away, Les’ business sense and competent assertiveness has been a key component of the ongoing success of Lithtex.
A glance at his employees shows a mix of both old and young. He’s seen a core group of people come up through the printing trade and his stories about Lithtex are all about the people, evidence of his care for them.
“No matter what, it’s really all about the people. They keep you going,” said Les. “My company is never going to grow at the same rate as my employees. My job is to prepare them to move on.”
In fact, one of Les’ strengths is preparation. His business plan includes both short- and long-term customers as well as a strong vision for the future. Lithtex offers a very diverse number of solutions for any print need. A walk through the walls of their facility shows careful thought and planning as to how to best serve both customers and employees with features such as a window wall where clients can see their orders in process and a central office for management collaboration.
Step out into the warehouse and you can see this is where the magic happens. There’s a sense of urgency as the smells, sounds, and sights fill your senses. As Les shows us around explaining what each machine does, it becomes apparent that his business is built to offer solutions. Many of the machines and samples exist as the result of a problem presented. “How can we do this?” is a question Lithtex is ready to answer. Their warehouse holds twenty different machines, countless supplies and options for each, and competent operators ready to handle any job presented. Manning three crews, they are able to run their presses 20 hours a day, six days a week, leaving enough cushion to ensure timely delivery. They even offer graphic design if a client needs help putting materials together. Lithtex can walk the journey with you from concept to finished product.
So where is Lithtex headed? Their beautiful facility has been intentionally designed to allow expansion over time. As the market evolves, so does Lithtex. Increasing their digital printing is definitely at the forefront of their plans as well as acquiring more online business. But for now, Les Davis is content keeping his staff at approximately 50 people, staying heavily involved in the community, and enjoying life as it comes.