Building on the past

When Murray Jefferies was lured out of semi-retirement to assist with the sale of some of the company’s businesses, he was expecting to work for Flying Colours International in Toronto, Ont., for a few months. Almost 12 years later, he’s the executive vice president and increasingly involved in the industry and IFAI.

Still, he’s a relative newcomer; the company was founded in 1910. “I had no prior expertise in textiles, but had been in senior manager roles in the chemical industry,” he says. “I found it had a good story and a good business with exceptional, long-term employees.” The average length of employment, in fact, is 17 years.

Refocusing the business

Jefferies says this level of experience gave a solid foundation for building newer approaches, and made it possible for Jefferies to successfully refocus the business back to graphics.

“What we’ve really done here is gone back to basics, as one of our managers said. That’s worked very well,” he says. “We’re very clear on what our capabilities are. We fit into a very focused part of the industry.” The company is well known for its screen printing capabilities for flags, banners and commission-printed end products. Additionally, It has state-of-the-art, high-definition digital capabilities and printing banners, retail point-of-purchase products and other projects.

Jefferies’ own career began with unloading boxcars for a company. They subscribed to a matrix management training system, which required employees to work in every department for a certain period of time. He was moved to sales, for example, one September, but that left him less than three months to meet a yearly goal. “I got the award as worst salesman,” he says. “It was intense with lots of ridicule. My boss said I had to just take it.”

He later received Senior Sales Awards. but he’s been able to use the experience to better utilize his employees’ expertise. “I think it gives you empathy for people,” he says. “I see potential in people that they sometimes don’t see themselves. I’ve moved people into roles that they didn’t think they could do. I can relate to people in all those groups.”

Ghosts, sailing, a Ph.D.

The building that houses the family-owned company—housed in a former pickle factory—has a bit of a reputation for being haunted, Jefferies says. “Any business that’s been around that long has ghosts, right?

“The building has a history about it. People who work late at night see things,” he says. “Someone is talking, but you turn around and no one is there, or someone breathes on you. Some people claim they saw shapes.”

Jefferies, however, is not one of them. He is definitely in the scientist’s corner—and not just in terms of his work in textiles. He’s in the process of getting his Ph.D. in theoretical physics. “It’s kind of a hobby,” he says. “If I live long enough I may get it!”

He also enjoys sailing his 37-foot boat—alone. “You come up with ways of doing that,” he says. He started out many years ago sailing smaller boats along the beaches of Lake Ontario, enjoying the “sleep on the beach, sail a little more, sleep on the beach” lifestyle of a young adventurer. Now he’s “having a blast” taking his young granddaughter out sailing, too, in what she’s named “her pirate ship.”

The newcomer

Although the company has had a long-term relationship with IFAI, Jefferies says “it’s new to me,” and the company’s owner, Dr. Farooque Dawood, encouraged him to get involved. He now serves on the Fabric Graphics Association board of directors and says “It’s one of the best things I ever did.” Sharing issues and getting a different perspective from “an outsider” can be beneficial for anyone, and “it could be helpful for IFAI, too,” he says.

By Janet Preus, editor, Specialty Fabrics Review