Next generation: Cockrell printing company celebrates 50 years in business

Betty Dillard Ink flows in the Cockrell family’s veins. John Cockrell Sr. and his son John Cockrell Jr., second- and third-generation leaders of their Fort Worth marketing manufacturing and print management company, Cockrell Enovation, are celebrating a half century in business this year while preparing the firm for the generations to follow. The company was founded in 1964 by Cleat Cockrell, John Sr.’s father, as Cockrell Printing and Office Supplies. Cleat realized early on that the office supply business was not what he wanted to do so he started growing the printing side.


Over the years, Cockrell Enovation has grown into one of the largest commercial printing companies in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. “We’ve always been a sheet-fed offset printing company and we’ve always been a family business,” said John Cockrell Sr., president of Cockrell Enovation. He grew up in the family enterprise, working after school and during the summers. After graduating from Texas Christian University and a stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to the company in 1971. He’s been there ever since, taking over the reins in 1985 and guiding Cockrell Enovation into a printing establishment focused on growth, fiscal responsibility, quality and advanced technology.

“My dad and I worked very well together,” John Sr. said. “I was taught well on how to bring someone into the business. John and I have worked together 13 years so I guess it’s working out pretty good.” Like his father and grandfather before him, John Jr. possesses an entrepreneurial spirit with an interest primarily in growing Cockrell Enovation and developing a strong brand presence for the firm. Also a TCU alumnus, with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, John Jr., 34, is the company’s vice president. He specializes in brand development and positioning, marketing and applying creativity to promote Cockrell Enovation. “I was approached with an opportunity to look into digital and was given three months to write a business plan,” John Jr. said. “If I liked it, wonderful, I had a job. If not, wonderful, they had a business plan. The more I got into it the more I realized it really combined key components I’m passionate about: the marketing side, the artistic side and the overall business side. After that, I decided it was for me.” In 2003, John Jr. founded Enovation Group, a company dedicated to advancing print through digital solutions. Six years later, Cockrell Printing merged with Enovation Group to form Cockrell Enovation, bringing together the companies’ digital solutions to help customers streamline marketing efforts, put a personal touch to printed communications and leverage technology and the Internet. One key to the company’s longevity and success, say its owners, is their commitment to providing high quality printed products with a focus on integrating sophisticated technology. Cockrell Enovation continues to evolve with the printing industry to help fulfill clients’ entire marketing and communications needs. “Printing is a challenging business. It’s a constantly changing industry and we’ve always operated with a vision that allows us to change as the printing industry changes with new technology,” said John Sr. “Our focus is to help our clients be more successful at their business with unique printing and technological solutions. As we’ve grown, we thought of how we could make things better, what we could offer that other companies don’t. We’ve had a number of firsts along the way.” Cockrell was an early adopter of digital printing, in-house mailing and e-commerce/Web-to-print. The company’s firsts include the first full-size, six-color press in Fort Worth; the first six-color press with UV coating in Dallas-Fort Worth; the first eight-color perfector press with coating in the United States; the first direct-to-plate pre-press in Fort Worth; and the first 12-color perfecting press in Fort Worth, which is still one of only two in the country.

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Bill Burton joined Cockrell in 1978. He’s one of several of the company’s 76 employees who’ve devoted decades to the family-owned business. “One of the assets to Cockrell’s success is their willingness to innovate,” Burton said. “It keeps me and the company viable and relevant in today’s market.” Like many printing companies during the recession, Cockrell Enovation saw a slowdown in business and revenue during 2009-2010. Volume has picked up significantly in the past two years, John Jr. says. The company generated revenue of $16.5 million in 2013 and projects $17.8 million in revenue this year. “People are starting to open their pocketbooks for higher quality products. That’s a good change,” he said. “We’ve had to take a look at where printing is growing. Digital is increasing. Our business is now about 30 percent digital and 70 percent sheet-fed. Part of print that’s really growing is in the retail customer experience, which combines sheet-fed, digital and large format printing. We combine print with mailing, fulfillment and e-commerce to provide our clients one source for printed marketing materials.”

One of Cockrell’s goals is to grow its retail partnerships and to be able to expand to other markets, according to John Jr. Cockrell’s list of clients covers a range of industries and includes TCU, Zales, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Galderma Pharmaceuticals, Alcon Laboratories, Baylor University and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. Along the walls in Cockrell Enovation’s 62,000-square-foot facility on Fort Worth’s Near Southside is a set of core values visible to employees and visitors alike. John Sr. says the company manages by those core values. “Those core values have been passed on year to year and it makes a night and day difference,” said John Jr., who is looking forward to the next 50 years in business. The company really has only one rule, says John Sr., and that also is being passed down. “Fifty years and one rule,” John Sr. said. “When you’re working in a family business it can be an interesting process. When I came back from the Army and joined the business, my dad said we’re going to have one rule. ‘We’re going to agree to agree. That doesn’t mean we’re going to ‘Yes, sir’ back and forth but to agree to agree means we agree on all things. If we fail on something, we fail together. When we succeed, we all succeed.’”