The clock is ticking for those of us not involved in continuing our education and training, says Jim Hopkins, president of J.F. Hopkins & Associates commercial printers.
"People that are not reading, taking advantage of opportunities to get additional education on what their trade is -- if we're not doing that, we're only kidding ourselves," Hopkins says. "The day of reckoning will come on quicker than we think."
Hopkins' mantra rings true especially as he, himself, faces a continuing challenge to be self-educated.
An Ernst & Young 2000 Master Entrepreneur of the Year, Hopkins regrets not pursuing higher education after high school.
"I grew up at a time when it wasn't thought it was necessary to have a college education," says Hopkins, 59. "I came from a blue collar family where higher education was neither pushed nor really understood."
Now, however, Hopkins does understand, and he's taking every opportunity he can to educate himself. In fact, the self-proclaimed avid reader book-taught himself right into the printing industry, a field he says he entered in a "mid-30s crisis."
During the 12 years he worked as a machine operator at Timken Roller Bearing, his relatively high wages kept him from finding a more satisfying entry-level position in another field.
His frustration, however, mounted.
"In my mid-30s I just became very disappointed at what the rest of my career was going to be," he says.
"I had a job that I didn't have to apply a lot of creativity, so I had a lot of free time to think and to make notes," he says of how he devised a plan to use his mechanical aptitude and drafting skills in printing.
After setting up in his garage a press, cutter and device to make printing plates, he called on potential customers on his way home from Timken. Staying true to his discipline in financial matters, he reinvested every penny he made.
By 1976, he decided he'd learned enough and could make a go at it, so he rented a storefront in German Village and launched Hop-To Printing, quitting his Timken job by the summer of the next year.
Not quite another year passed before he met a setback -- heavy snows caved in the roof of the building, forcing Hopkins to move.
"It was a fairly devastating period," he says.
As luck would have it, a couple of blocks up High Street he found another prime location -- right in front of the then-new courthouse.
"In so many cases in life, at least in immediate terms, things seem to be disastrous that actually turn out to be pretty good," he says, noting his company eventually grew so much he had to decide whether to open other Hop-To quick print shops or go after commercial printing work.
Choosing the latter, he changed the company's name to J.F. Hopkins & Associates and moved it to South Columbus, finding a niche market in small, full-color commercial jobs.
As well as boosting his business to more than 100 employees and nearly $13 million in revenue, Hopkins continues to push his own personal growth, taking a page from the histories of Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison. He admires both men because of their thirst for knowledge.
"[Franklin] said, of everything he was, he considered being a printer one of his highest accomplishments," Hopkins says. "We in the print industry say that, but he was really a writer, too. He learned printing in order to publish and get across his ideas."
Edison he particularly respects because his quest for knowledge continued up until the time he died.
"It was reported that he was helping the doctors and nurses do research on what caused his death," Hopkins says.
One way Hopkins quenches his own thirst for knowledge is by learning how to use a digital camera. He also calls himself a student of the Bible.
"I don't consider myself an expert, but I'm intrigued by the principles that are contained in a book that's 2,000 years old, but applicable today," he says.
Even people outside Hopkins & Associates call Hopkins a studious person.
"I think he's put a tremendous amount of effort into becoming a businessman by studying books written by successful businesspeople," says Jim Bannister of Bannister & Associates Inc., a Westerville-based association management company and one of Hopkins' first customers.
"The important thing is, I found from the very beginning both Jim and his wife, Arnie, to be extremely honest and reliable businesspeople," says Bannister. Hopkins shares ownership of Hopkins & Associates with his wife, as well as his two daughters, Ramona Hopkins and Michelle Waterhouse.
"I've learned a lot about integrity from him," Bannister continues. "Hopefully I had it to begin with, but he reinforces it. He helps to make me a better person."
Hopkins works to have the same effect on his employees by stressing continuing education for them. He encourages his managers, for example, to read one chapter each month of Stephen R. Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Each manager is even asked to report on a section.
"The great thing about developing your skills at work is you don't leave them here; you take them home," Hopkins says. "If employees learn to make better decisions at work, they can make better decisions in their personal lives and become better spouses, parents, neighbors.
"I think Covey and a lot of writers have said one of their hopes in helping society recover from some of its problems is trying to do it in the workplace," he says.
Hopkins also pushes his cause for education as a board member and education, recruitment and scholarship committee chair of the Printing Industry Association of Northern Kentucky and Ohio. He's also a member of the advisory councils for the graphic arts programs at Columbus Community College and Northeast Career Center.
Now, he's preparing for a December move to consolidate operations into more space at a new 75,000-square-foot facility off Stelzer Road. He also plans to change the company's name to Hopkins Printing at that time.
"We could stay here if we were committed to not growing," he says. "As I say in business, that's a decision for disaster if you say, 'I'm not going to push any more.'" Joan Slattery Wall (email@example.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.