Leon Johnson is president of Excel Screen Printing and Embroidery, Inc., of Chicago, Ill.
What is your specialty?
We are a direct premier supplier of screen printed and embroidered apparel and imprinted glassware, awards and fulfillment.
Tell me a little about your daily routine.
My daily routine includes the actual operation of all departments of Excel Screen Printing and, of course, meeting with the different department heads to make sure we are meeting our goals and are supplying quality service. Excel is known for supplying quality products and excellent customer service, which includes meeting customer deadlines and offering competitive prices.
What about this business makes you get up in the morning?
Success. I want to be successful. I want to make sure I keep my people in jobs because I know for a fact that I am responsible for more than my employees, but for their families as well.
How do you define success?
Retention of your business, keeping your doors open at the facility, and one of the important things is having a happy team. Our decrease in manpower due to the people leaving our company is less than two percent per year.
Describe the best day of running your business and making a difference in the community.
When we have everything rolling — all departments are busy pushing out products and our customers are happy. In the community, we participate in a number of sponsorships, and we have retention of business from the police and fire departments.
How did you get started with your business?
By accident. I got involved in the Million Man March and, because I have trouble saying “no” to people, I took on a print job when I really wasn’t skilled in that area. I went to Florida and learned the business, and my first order was for 10,000 shirts. I received a nice commission check and realized this was a good business to be in. Excel Printing was one of my print contractors. The owners and I eventually became friends, then like family, and, in 2004, they asked me if I wanted to purchase the business, and I did. I started with 12,000 square feet and now have 50,000 square feet. Today, Excel is the largest African American printing and embroidery company in the country.
What skills prepared you for this job?
A B.S. degree from Xavier University, a sales background and some common sense.
What advice do you offer others who wish to follow in a similar career path?
I mentor a couple of people now and hope to encourage them to get into the business. This business lacks minority participation. There are communities out there that are in need of companies like ours.
How do you keep your business relevant to the trends and changes of society?
By keeping up with the flow of what customers are requesting. We were flat in 2009 with the economy, but, in 2010, we were up 30 percent and, for this year, we will be up 35 percent.
How is your company different from your competitors?
We are a one-stop shop. Everything is done in-house, so we do not have to outsource any of our work. In addition, we are the only glass imprinter in the state of Illinois.
What books are you reading?
In the little spare time that I have, I enjoy reading the Bible. It relaxes me.