by Guest Contributor | Robbie Ward
With emediagroup, Bill Bishop has made his mark in Boston and worldwide—but his heart and soul are in the Upstate
Bill Bishop keeps his childhood tricycle and lunchbox inside his office.
His workspace doubles as an exhibit to the Greenville native’s life, a collection that includes a pogo stick leaning against a display case near the door. He says years of valuable memories help him understand the value of personal and professional relationships.
Co-owner of emediagroup, a professional print and custom-design manufacturing company, Bishop blends values of relationship development and delivering creative responses to unique challenges. This includes custom car wraps, professional football team programs and printed numbers for runners in the Boston Marathon.
He and business partner Joel Hogg started emediagroup more than a decade ago.
Bishop’s souvenir collection in his office shows an appreciation of creating signs, posters and other materials. Among the memories displayed, a framed medallion and printed race number represent a commitment he made for his 40th birthday in 1998. He ran the Strawberry Mountain Half Marathon in Oregon.
The importance represented by that race number compares to the experiences of millions of runners. Emediagroup printed about 10 million race numbers in 2014 for marathons and other events throughout the United States and beyond.
“We’ll probably print 15 to 20 million this year,” he said. “Each of those numbers is incredibly special to the runner wearing it.”
You seem to live in your own world. How has that worked in business?
Pretty good. I don’t think I’m the smartest guy in the world by any means, but I think I’m fairly intuitive. I think I’m a ready-aim-fire kind of guy. I can get into situations and assess the situation pretty quickly.
How do companies dependent on print avoid imminent doom when we have the Internet?
You can only stare at this thing [nods at his computer] so long. Are you getting any less junk mail or catalogues in your mailbox each day? No. There are probably more because more people are selling stuff. But if you notice we don’t have “print” in our name.
It could. But it could stand for everything. Exuberance. Enthusiasm. Excellence. It stands for a lot of things. “E” gives that digital connotation, and that was intentional. We don’t do everything, but we don’t shy away from doing much. We’ll take a look at almost everything. I think we’re going to be the world’s largest printer of race numbers. We’re printing numbers for the Boston Marathon right now. All of those bibs that will be worn for all of those people are in this building as we speak. [Note: Bishop was interviewed prior to the Boston Marathon on April 20.]
How important are strong relationships in your kind of work?
I know we’ve disappointed customers along the way—we’re custom manufacturing. We don’t make the same thing for all of our customers. Everything we do is made specifically for them. However, you find out what you’re made of when you do disappoint somebody. When you have that rough or rocky spot in your marriage, or when your kid is doing what your kid isn’t supposed to do, that’s when you find out what you’re really made of.
I think it’s foolish to say it’s not like this in business. We’re all humans. Those same kinds of values or guidelines you have in a marriage or a parenting situation are the same things you have in business, all day and every day.
You hate when those things happen, but when they do, you go to the person you’ve got a deep relationship with, like when you’re married, and they help you. Even though they might not be happy with you, they love you. If they love you enough, it’ll be OK.
How do you build trust when you meet people for the first time?
I’m the “off” thinker. I want to find out about you. When people understand you’re really empathetic about what they’re doing and have a genuine and caring concern about who they are. I’m really not that book-smart but I’m street-savvy. I like to go in situations and find out what people are doing. The crazy, jumping-aroundness of me is still me. But I think people can see that I really care and am concerned about who they are, what they’re trying to do as a business.
You donate your time and other resources to Meals on Wheels and other charitable organizations. Why is this an important corporate value?
We want to take care of customers, our employees and ourselves. But you must take care of the community you’re living in. I have a Meals on Wheels route personally, and our company has a Meals on Wheels route because that’s people’s grandmothers we’re delivering meals to. I can’t imagine not doing it. Giving will change your life.
A lot of people choose to work somewhere besides where they grew up. Why is your business based in Greenville?
We love this town. It’s inside of Joel and me. We’re not in this town; it’s in us. I used to take the bus from the mill village and ride downtown to go to the old soda shop. We love this town. We do business all over the world, but we want to be housed in this town. We love this place.