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On the Job with Hill Gillespie

Hill Gillespie, who was born and raised in Albany, is the owner of Gillespie 
Printers.

Hill Gillespie, who was born and raised in Albany, is the owner of Gillespie Printers.

Hill Gillespie says he finds the time to read four or five books each week.

That’s in addition to operating a printing business and keeping up with his beloved Georgia Bulldogs and Atlanta Braves.

Gillespie bought his business more than two decades ago after he admitted becoming burned out in his job as a stockbroker. He shared this and other details in a question-and-answer session with Managing Editor Danny Carter.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I worked at Albany Air Service driving the “follow-me” truck and servicing airplanes.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?

A. I used my paychecks to purchase a 1951 Volkswagen Beetle in 1967. It cost me $350.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I try to be very flexible. People have lives to live so I am very liberal in allowing them to take time out for their children, doctor appointments and necessary errands. We try to maintain a family atmosphere.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I was a stockbroker for six years and quite frankly was burned out. In 1990, a friend of mine and I decided to start or buy a business. We saw a printing company for sale in the newspaper, put the process in motion and ended up buying what was then Klein Printing Co. What is pure coincidental is that the company was originally started by my grandfather in the 1930s and passed on to my uncle who sold it to the Kleins. So I am a third-generation printer with about 25 years removed.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My mother was an exceptional businesswoman. Her motto was “service them to death.” I have always felt good service was the key to success.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. I learned how important local leadership, or lack thereof, is to the community. I feel that some of the things that have occurred in our area have affected our economy more than in other places nationwide.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Georgia football season. We have been going to all the home games, and a lot of away games, for years, and now that my son is at UGA, we go for long weekends.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I read four to five books a week, all fiction. I read The Herald every morning and subscribe to “Time” and “Sports Illustrated.”

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I’m up at 6, read the paper, work all the puzzles and head to work to see what the day will bring.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and why?

A. Ted Turner. I have always admired his entrepreneurial spirit and his philanthropic efforts.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside of work?

A. I love to read and am a crossword puzzle, sudokku, and cryptogram fanatic. I play golf and love to travel. I’m a big fan of the Bulldogs and the Atlanta Braves.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Having a partner. When I bought the company in 1990, I needed a partner to help finance the acquisition. Unfortunately, we didn’t agree on how to run the company so I bought him out.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Never knowing what my day will be like. In our business, customers need printing yesterday, so what I may have planned won’t necessarily be what we do. I like the challenge of directing the day which may change within the hour.

A. Worst thing about your job?

Q. Probably like all businessmen, accounts receivables. I hate calling people about past-due accounts.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. At UGA I took a layout-design course in the journalism school. It’s amazing how much I learned that I apply now.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. General manager of the Atlanta Braves.

Q. Finish this thought: On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself ...

A. Working, but with less stress.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Adaptability.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. If I had an iPod — country music.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

A. My wife and I went to San Francisco several years ago without any specific plans. Everywhere we ate was great. Went to Napa and Monterey and, of course, the city of San Francisco is awesome.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The biggest change, without question, is the technology used in our business. When I bought Gillespie Printers, we typeset on an IBM Selectric typewriter. We did a lot of cut-and-paste and then took it to the camera room where we made negatives. The negatives were stripped up and run through a plate maker to make metal plates for the press. Today, everything is set on computer (or emailed to us) and run straight from plate to press. We also have a color digital press that can print files emailed or designed by us in full color.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I’ve always been an optimist. So hopefully, we will see a turnaround within the next couple of years.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I truly think that we are going to become a more united community. I think that in the last election we showed that we are becoming increasingly concerned about the education of our children. We have all got to pull together to get more qualified individuals in local office so that we can progress.