With recent acquisition, Rutland print group ready to “lean into” employee ownership

Green Screen Graphics joined forces with a Rutland-based graphics company in November to form a 100% employee-owned graphics service provider. With the aim of diversifying its graphics and printing offerings, Tuttle Printing, d/b/a QuickPrint of Rutland, has purchased Green Screen Graphics, combining customers and printing capabilities while bringing Green Screen employees into the fold of Tuttle’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

Founded in 1912 in Rutland, Tuttle Printing has kept pace with the evolving graphics industry by adopting new technologies and strategies as needed to meet market demands. Ben Nooney, Tuttle’s President and CEO said the decision to bring Green Screen into the company will help Tuttle stay agile and competitive in this ever-changing industry.

Green Screen’s primary contribution to the Tuttle group will be its large format printing capacities and signage expertise, but with much of Tuttle’s workforce celebrating decades and not just years with the company, Nooney said Green Screen’s employees–many of them significantly younger – are also an asset for the years ahead.

“We’re an older company,” Nooney said. “Not just the business itself, but the personnel. … There are not always openings to bring new people on, and to get some employees who are more established in their ways, to initiate or embrace new ideas has historically been a challenge. So, to infuse some new blood and new thinking was appealing to me as well.”

When Green Screen’s previous owner Mike Gauthier told Nooney of his desire to sell, it wasn’t immediately clear what the Green Screen business would bring to the table. However, as they discussed the idea further Nooney said “it started making more and more sense.” It eventually became clear that the potential for new and overlapping customers as well as Green Screen’s knowledge of wide format printing would directly support Nooney’s goal of diversifying the print services that Tuttle/QuickPrint offers.

Since its origin in 1912, Tuttle has widened its focus from serving the legal community with forms, stationery and legal specific back-office supplies. The company merged with QuickPrint of Rutland in 2015 to grow its customer base and to offer products such as forms, labels, marketing materials and promotional products. The addition of Green Screen allows printing of larger-scale materials such as vehicle decals and wraps, wall murals, window displays, and building signs – to name a few. Now with Green Screen in the Tuttle group of printers, the company can print across a wide range of materials, shapes, sizes, and applications.

Tuttle and Green Screen are not only coming together from different niches within the printing world, but also from different company cultures, which Nooney says has been “a little bit of a curve.” Now with 32 employee owners at Tuttle, Nooney sees this adjustment period as a “big opportunity to rethink” the company culture, particularly as it relates to creating a culture of participation, transparency, and ownership among employee owners.

Tuttle’s board has initiated a conversation over the options and potential for encouraging democratic participation. Among the ideas being discussed are forming employee advisory groups and giving employees representation on the board to speak for and represent the company’s “rank and file.”

“I really want to lean into employee ownership,” Nooney said. “There are some companies out there that really set a good example–like one in our neighborhood named Carris Reels, or you look at King Arthur [Baking Co.]. How do we position ourselves as an employee-owned company and really stand on that? When I leave this company, I want people to be talking about us as a progressive place to work where we can attract the best of the best, like I’m talking about Gardener’s [Supply Co.] and King Arthur.”

The question is more than a thought experiment. The way Nooney sees it, Tuttle’s transition to employee ownership through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1995 was the sole factor responsible for keeping the company from being purchased from an out-of-state buyer after the company explored its sale in the early 90’s. Had the company been purchased by outside buyers, Nooney said, nothing of Tuttle, including its employee owners, would be here today. More likely, he added, Tuttle’s national clientele would now be served by a company operating in New Jersey, Ohio, or somewhere else. Creating an ESOP was a logical option.

Now Tuttle’s group of printers employs 28 of its 32 employee-owners in Rutland today, while the others work remotely. With the acquisition of Green Screen, Tuttle now has two locations in Rutland: the Tuttle/QuickPrint office at 414 Quality Lane, and the Green Screen office at 7 Pine Street.