The Women in Print Awards: Catherine Monson

Fastsigns' CEO has led the transition from analog to digital not once, but four times.

Catherine Monson
Chief Executive Officer
Fastsigns International
Carrollton, Texas

Industry innovations: Manned four companies’ transitions from analog to digital; spearheaded PIP Printing’s transition to online ordering; branded Fastsigns as “More than Fast. More than Signs.”

Philanthropy: Dallas/Ft. Worth Corporate Walk Chair for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk; board of directors for Brain Balance; Pi Sigma Epsilon National Education Foundation board of trustees

Leadership roles: Testified before Congress on behalf of franchisees; expanded Fastsigns franchise offerings and grew network to 617 locations in nine countries

What are the current challenges facing women in print?
I believe the challenges are the same for anyone in the print industry, male or female: Rapidly changing technology, more fragmented media, advertising clutter, life moving at “internet speed,” understanding the work styles and purchasing behavior of different generations, etc. My advice to anyone looking to succeed would be to study the marketplace, understand existing and new technologies, develop outstanding communication and interpersonal skills, develop your management and leadership skills, and look for ways to bring more value to your customers and your organization.

I may differ from some women in business in that I see no upside or benefit from focusing on challenges based on gender. Over my life, I have been collecting quotes and reflecting upon them for inspiration and growth. One is “Fair is two weeks in the summer with cotton candy and a midway.” In other words, life isn’t fair … so get over it and move on! The reality is each of us, male and female, have challenges we each face. These challenges could be based on our IQ, our health, a physical disability, our upbringing, etc. Our responsibility is to do all we can to achieve our personal goals. I have chosen not to concern myself with any potential unfairness based on being female. Instead I have focused on being the very best I can be, contributing more than others do, and ensuring I bring the most possible value to my organization.

During my life, I have learned that all highly successful people share five common characteristics: positive mental attitude, goal-directed behavior, self-motivation, a sense of urgency, and never stopping learning. The great news about these common characteristics is that these are all learned behaviors: We can each learn to improve our skills in each of these five areas. Whenever I get the opportunity to share this valuable information with young people, I jump at the chance. Each of us can develop a more positive attitude, which is the foundation of all achievement and is achieved through self-discipline. The easiest thing in the world is to think negatively and to feel sorry for oneself. We all can learn to develop goal-directed behavior and self-discipline. All highly successful people are people of action; the universe rewards action. We each can learn to do today what could have been put off until tomorrow. To be the very best we can be, we need to continue to learn and grow. Read five books on any subject and you’ll know more about that topic than 99 percent of the population. By focusing on being the best we can be and delivering the most value possible in all of our endeavors, we can achieve our personal and career goals.

What would you say to a young woman who is interested in working in the printing industry?
Learn to communicate well. Listen more than you talk. Stay current with technology across all platforms – to communicate, to market, to print and fabricate, etc. Attend industry tradeshows and join a local association. Join groups on LinkedIn and follow print industry leaders on social media. If you can, find a mentor to provide guidance, but don’t rely on him/her to pave the way.

Meet the rest of our 2016 Women in Print Award winners or nominate an exceptional female leader for the 2017 Women in Print Awards.

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