Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Diane Smith: Pressed for Success

By  0 Comments

How do you run a successful business with hundreds of customers, great employees and continuous fresh inspiration? Diane Smith, owner of Tokay Press, can answer that question firsthand after nearly 18 years building what she calls “one of the best companies ever.”

Diane got her start rather unexpectedly when she bought a small business with the agreement that someone else was going to run it. Fast forward three months and she had lost all her money and owed an additional $27,000. She had zero experience running a company, but said, “I could design and sell.” Armed with those skills and a powerful growth mindset, she “dove in, worked super hard, made mistakes, learned from them and met people who taught me very valuable things.” No matter the obstacle, Diane refused to quit. “Sometimes I’d bring my sleeping bag to work to keep the printing machines running all night. They weren’t the best machines in the world, but they did the trick. Now we have the best machines in the world and I don’t need to do that anymore.”

In spite of the bumpy start, Diane fell in love with the printing and production business that reaches much further than just paper and ink. “People are surprised at how many things we do.” In addition to regular printed items, Tokay Press designs and produces trade show displays, signage, cutout signs, wall graphics and more. “Often our customers will want something, not knowing exactly what, and we will come up with ideas they love, and make it! We don’t say, ‘No;’ we get creative and find solutions to their problems.” 

Tokay Press employees are empowered to make decisions and don’t have to get permission to do what’s best for the customer. “We truly do have a dream team” said Diane. “We’re pretty progressive and come up with new ideas and try them out. Our newest venture is that since childcare is an issue for two employees, we just opened a Tokay Tots space and hired a childcare provider to care for our four little girls right here onsite.” 

Now in a larger space, the company has also invested in new equipment that increased production capacity. “Investment in equipment that increases productivity has been a key strategy in our growth,” Diane noted. “The secret to business success is the same as the secret to living life: being kind, honest and all about others. The second part is that, in business, it’s only sustainable if the business is profitable, so you have to find a way to do that too, while maintaining those unbreakable life principles. I believe it’s achievable only in situations where everyone wins: customers, employees, vendors and you.” 

Acknowledging that we all have challenges in life, Diane observed, “It’s not that we have them, it’s how we face and handle them that makes a difference.” She should know; she’s had plenty of practice. “Health has been a major challenge in my life since 2008. I’ve had cancer four times, a bone marrow transplant and lots of complications. It sure has been a big hassle, but the Tokay team always takes care of our customers in the times that I can’t. I always have my laptop with me at times I’m in the hospital, designing things and keeping my mind on the business and not on my health problems.” Though she’s much admired by many, Diane insisted, “I’m no Superwoman, I’m just like many others who don’t quit and do whatever it takes in spite of any obstacle. I don’t let the feeling of fear, feeling tired or anything hold me back.” 

Personal Growth
Asked what advice she would share with someone planning to open their own business, Diane’s wisdom shines through here too. “Growing a business grows you. Don’t expect it to be easy, but you will succeed so long as you work hard, never quit and look at problems as signs you’re doing something wrong, figuring out what that is, and fixing it. Hire the right people and don’t keep anyone or anything that will not benefit the business in the long run. You’re building a team. Be kind, be humble, make mistakes and learn from them. Never blame anyone except yourself for problems even if someone else made them. Usually these problems are caused by lacking proper procedures. Value your employees and customers; without them you’d have no business.” 

These philosophies work well at Tokay Press, where Diane and her staff are inspired to “make ordinary things extraordinary.” “I have developed a super-purposeful life that has created jobs for wonderful people and a livelihood for their families,” she affirmed. “We’re still small and plan to grow a little, but not too much. We enjoy a happy, family-like culture and I never want to lose that.”

Tokay Press is located at 7207 Murray Drive, Stockton, California, 209-547-0377,