Dave Kamis: Centered on Service
“My whole career has been about service. Whether you’re on the printing side or the publishing side of things, your role is customer service,” says Dave Kamis, vice president, production and manufacturing for Detroit-based Crain Communications.
“That’s been my approach,” Kamis notes. “[To consider], ‘how can I meet the needs of my clients?’ And … in my current job, those [clients] are the publishers, the editors, the art directors and our advertising clients. What can I do to support their specific goals and objectives? That’s always been my objective, and looking back, I’d say that it’s been a consistent theme throughout my career—customer service.”
It would seem that it’s also been a consistent advantage in his career, leading Kamis to a top post at Crain—publisher of 32 print titles, plus as many Web sites and other digital products—and to his induction into the Publishing Executive Hall of Fame.
Hooked on Publishing
Fresh out of high school, Kamis would have thought mad anyone who suggested that his career path would lead him to magazines. He had simple goals: to join the military, to get a college degree, and ultimately, to get married and start a family of his own.
Following his time in the Armed Forces, Kamis graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in psychology, and took his first job as a salesman. Two years later, fate led him to the printing industry, straight to RR Donnelley.
Kamis spent 16 years with the printer, holding various positions in sales and customer service.
“Right from the start, the industry fascinated me,” Kamis recalls. “I was immediately hooked, and even when I was back at Donnelley, I remember thinking that the magazine group was the coolest within the company. Later, about five years into my career with Donnelley, I had the chance to become part of a group that sold magazines, and I worked on all sorts of accounts—small entrepreneurial companies and very large consumer publications. Magazines have been in my blood ever since.”
Kamis left the printer in 2001, and joined Crain Communications as its corporate director of production and manufacturing. He was promoted to his current position—vice president of production and manufacturing—in June 2005.
“I am extremely fortunate to work for Crain Communications, a company that has an unrivaled reputation for editorial excellence and a wealth of talented, hard-working employees,” Kamis acknowledges.
His professional foundation in printing has enabled him to make smart, educated decisions for the publications he now nurtures.
“Working for RR Donnelley gave me a unique perspective into the printers’ world. I understand their business,” he says. “Understanding the printer’s processes helps me to determine when I can push and how hard I can push.”
Kamis also has been fortunate to have had many professional mentors along the way. “I really believe that mentoring is extremely important in business,” Kamis explains. “When I worked for Donnelley, I developed a mentoring program that paired inexperienced with experienced customer service reps. But I believe that mentoring happens whether you have a program or not. There’s a lot of unofficial mentoring that takes place in our industry,” he says. “I work for Bob Adams, the group vice president here at Crain Communications, and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something from him. His guidance on publishing has been very valuable to me. And on the printing side, well, I have a list of mentors too numerous to name.”
Keeping Pace with Change
Kamis’ voice is calm, soothing. In speaking with him, one wouldn’t get the impression that he leads a particularly stressful professional life. But, in fact, his position at Crain Communications is quite demanding. He currently manages everything from prepress to print buying, from paper procurement to vendor relations for the entire company.
For Kamis, the greatest daily challenge he faces is keeping pace with evolving technology. “You’ve got to keep up with [technology],” he says. “It comes at us at such a frenetic pace. These days, within a year or two, you’ll find that something you’ve been using is outdated, obsolete. So, the challenge is to stay on top of technology, so you can ensure that the work is done more efficiently and cost-effectively.”
Kamis isn’t easily flustered by swift technological changes, however; he seems to relish the challenge.
“Everything we do is done much quicker these days. Pages can be produced and transmitted much closer to print deadlines,” Kamis explains. “I think the real benefit is for our readers. They get very timely editorial content—even more so on the digital side, where publishing is measured in mere minutes. It’s a very exciting time for those of us who work in printing and publishing. It’s forced us all to reinvent ourselves, to learn new skill sets.”
Does he ever miss being on the supplier side of the business? “I think publishing has hooked me,” he says. “You know what they say, ‘Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived moving forward.’ I’m glad I worked on the print side for so many years, but I’m even more fortunate, I think, to be in publishing now—consumer, trade and B-to-B publications, in particular. With the pace of change going on in publishing, I feel like I have a front-row seat to an industry transformation.”
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