KEVIN CUSHING was well into his second career before he recognized the logic--if not inevitability--of his decision to quit as head of a major, fast-food restaurant ownership group to run a Minneapolis AlphaGraphics franchise; since a young boy, Cushing has followed the "paper" trail: At age nine, he had a paper route, delivering more than one million copies of the Chicago Sun-Times; as an undergraduate, he took a work-study position at a campus copy center; and in 1981, while completing his MBA at the University of Chicago, Cushing worked as an intern studying the carbonless forms market for Boise-Cascade.
"Through all those jobs, I never dreamt I would go into the printing business. But in 1995, I somehow, well, found myself in the business," Cushing says with an ironic grin--a subtle acknowledgement of the fact that as CEO of AlphaGraphics, he is far more than simply "in the business."
Indeed, considering AlphaGraphics' expansive domestic and international presence, perennially strong showing in Entrepreneur magazine's Franchise 500, and disproportionately large slice of the quick printer revenues pie. Cushing is by any measure near the top of the printing business.
When AlphaGraphics relocated its corporate headquarters from Tucson, Ariz. to Salt Lake City in 2001, then-CEO Michael Witte--whom Cushing replaced--expressed dissatisfaction with the local culture, raising both eyebrows and concerns over the company's long-term permanence. But where his predecessor saw the toner cartridge as half empty, Cushing sees it as half full.
"If this job had been anywhere but Salt Lake, Minneapolis-St. Paul or my home town of Chicago, I would not have considered it," says Cushing, who lived here with his young family for 11 years before leaving to launch the first of what would...