CEO Spotlight Part 2: Sarah Meehan Parker’s Thoughts on the Pillars of Successful Business

As AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh celebrates 20 years in business, our CEO, Sarah Meehan Parker, reflects on the history that’s led the organization to where we are today and the lessons she’ll carry as she leads us into the future.

In part one of our spotlight series, Sarah spoke on her biggest leadership role models, from Morgan Stanley’s CEO & Chairman of the Board John Mack to her parents, Bill and Clare Meehan, who founded the business and champion her to this day. Now, Sarah sheds light on the pillars of the business—Team First, Customer Excellence and Innovation and Development—and how these three values will pave the way for mutual success between AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh and our customers for years to come.

Teamwork at the core

According to Sarah, the success and growth that AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh has experienced over the past two decades would not have been possible if not for its employees and the team-first culture we share.

“While our company was founded as a family business, in so many ways, all the people who have joined since have become our family,” she says. “I am proud of how each member of our team looks out for and takes ownership in the greater good, proving that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is that top-to-bottom talent that makes me most proud.”

AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh invests in our team in many ways, whether through continual training and consultants to further every member’s expertise or supporting the design and marketing team when they enter for awards like the Addy Awards or Pgh365 AIGA Awards. These kinds of efforts not only serve as kudos to the company but also bolster team morale, confidence and pride when their work is shared and commended.

The business wants every person to grow as an employee but also as individual people and, most importantly, together as a team. Collaboration, trust and teamwork are so ingrained in our operations that the signs department wall proudly boasts a famous quote from Babe Ruth:

“You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Positive attitude, engagement and accountability are equally important aspects of this team-first approach. Sarah notes how one of her key roles is to offer support and urge everyone to continue to do their best.

She says, “Knowing that I have the great privilege and responsibility of supporting [everyone] leaves me humble about what we have accomplished. At the same time, it keeps me motivated to not let our team members down by making sure that while we can and should celebrate the past, we must continue to raise the bar if we are to create a future that 10 years from now (on our 30th anniversary) will likewise be worth commemorating.”

Delivering excellence

Naturally, teamwork and collaboration pave the way for the second core tenet of the business—customer excellence. From day one, delivering the best quality and service to customers with whom we forge strong relationships has been the ultimate vision. This tenet is reflected in our two-time receipt of the “Best Operations” award from the AlphaGraphics network, which was an immense honor.

“Customer excellence has been the hallmark of our business and must remain so if we are to continue to grow,” Sarah says. “We have the great honor to work with many clients, small to large, non-profit to corporate and everything in between. While it can be demanding, we have always taken ownership in learning about our customers and their needs and then creating a solution that is tailored to meet their needs.”

Sarah says that building a strong team of like-minded individuals—ones who don’t just want to hear about a problem but want to solve it—is at the heart of her mission.

“AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh was founded on the principle to be part of the solution, and it is this personal care about our customers that has hopefully distinguished us over the last 20 years,” she says.

The business’s goal of meeting and surpassing expectations does not happen overnight, though. Over the past 20 years, Sarah acknowledges how much effort her parents, her team and she, herself, have poured into being better, doing better and helping colleagues and clients alike. It is this drive that will continue to propel the future of AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh and make our center one that clients rely on time and time again.

"We have developed close relationships with our clients over our 20 years in business through servant leadership and caring, and many clients have become my closest friends," says Clare Meehan, President. She also cites a favorite quote by Maya Angelou that summarizes her outlook:

“People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel."

Focused on the future

Of course, like all things, Sarah acknowledges that AlphaGraphics is subject to change. In a market dominated by evolutions in both technology and customer needs, the business has needed to keep digital and information technology at the forefront to stay on the cutting edge.

“The certainty of the future is change, much of which is unpredictable,” Sarah says. “As our 20-year history demonstrates, we will continue to evolve to meet ever-changing customer needs, be at the forefront of technical changes and have the team to meet all the challenges.”

Continuing to invest in education and training has paid off tremendously, as has the business’s reliance on strategic planning and data-driven analysis. In fact, Sarah says that innovation and development has been one of the biggest accomplishments since 2000.

“One of the core principals of our founders was an unrelenting commitment to continuous growth. Over the past 20 years, we have remained committed to this principle,” she says. “To think AlphaGraphics started as a printing company and has grown into a three-floor communications business that offers a wide range of services, including award-winning design and marketing and a large-scale signage business—all of which is in addition to our traditional print business…I am very proud of the numerous awards that AlphaGraphics has received in recognition of the quality of our work and the creativity of our designs.”

Celebrating 20 years

Sarah’s biggest takeaway over the past 8 years of her tenure has been that you have to have goals as well as a path to achieving those goals—a lesson our team shares for the future good of the business. As it turns out, building a strong team with a shared vision of customer excellence and giving them the tools to adapt and grow over time was the recipe for AlphaGraphics’ success!

In addition to the advice she’s taken to heart from her role models, Sarah wishes she could remind her past self of an important truth: “Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.”

Through her goal setting, creativity and leadership, Sarah is set to position AlphaGraphics Pittsburgh for yet another decade of growth and inspiration. Thank you for sharing 20 years with us!

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