Lawton Printing Services has a unique distinction in that it is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Only 7% of businesses survive longer than 25 years and the average life of a business is 40 years. For family-owned businesses, only 3-5% survive to the fourth generation.
Our anniversary prompted me to reflect on this accomplishment and to research the common attributes of other companies that have achieved this milestone. An article from The Economist, December 2004, states that “most older firms also have to evolve in order to keep pace with the times.” An article from Family Business Magazine, October 2012, states “Families with a transgenerational orientation….place their emphasis on the founder’s entrepreneurial spirit, attention to the marketplace, flexibility and sense of stewardship.”
Our history follows closely with the ideas cited in the articles. My great-grandfather (Frank H. Lawton) and grandfather (Frank A. Lawton) worked for Sunset McKee, a regional sales book manufacturer, who chose to consolidate their Spokane operation into their Oakland, CA operation in the late 1930’s. They chose not to move with the company but to open their own business in Spokane. My great-grandfather already owned two small presses which he used to print religious material for the Gideons. In 1940, they opened F.H. Lawton and Son in the chicken coop behind my great-grandfather’s house, sold printing during the day and produced the jobs in the evening.
The company’s philosophy in the beginning was to become a complete service printer for each of our customers. This philosophy is still valid today- we exist to be a valuable resource for our customers in all aspects of marketing. As we look ahead, we continue to look at how technology can enhance what we offer our customers and we remain interested in finding new opportunities to diversify our business.
Throughout the year, we will be celebrating the legacy that my great-grandfather and grandfather started. Every Thursday we will be posting a trivia question on our Facebook page. Old photos from our archives are posted at lawtonprinting.com/our-story.
Join us as we celebrate where we’ve been and anticipate where we are going.
Look for my next blog in February, The Lawton Advantage – Commitment to Our Customers