This month, we want to highlight Donald Murden. Donald has been a part of the Ironmark family for over 50 years. In honor of his amazing milestone, we caught up with Donald to talk about his Ironmark experience and how he has seen the company change and grow.

When did you start working at Ironmark?

I started in July 1971. It was Frank Gumpert Printing back then. I ran the Two-Color Press called the 1250W. As we grew, I did more and more, learning more everyday. Back then, it was not easy. When you ran a Press, you had to be hands-on with everything to make it work. I learned everything there was to learn to make sure I succeeded. They moved me up to Shop Foreman. As the years went by, I became Assistant Manager.

When I started, Gumpert had been in business for four or five years. It was just a small shop; really, really small. To look at it now, as Ironmark - that's amazing. It makes me feel so great to see how far the company has come. And I’m sure they are going even further, and I’m so proud to be part of it 

My very actual first print job was in 1963. I started working at Grant Printing. They told me, “You have to learn all this in 3 months or you're out.”  I learned on my own. I had to do everything from bringing the job in, to wrapping it.

What’s one of your favorite Ironmark memories?

One of my great memories is when I was getting ready to get married. I didn't have any time off available on the books. Frank called me and said he was coming down to Annapolis. I told him I was supposed to get married, but didn’t have time off. He gave me a week off and paid me, so I could get married and be with my wife. Frank was a great person.

I also remember we had one job - can't think of the name of the company - but it was huge. They thought about sending me to Chicago to work on it. It was a lot of work, with a short period of time to get it done. We ended up getting a company in Baltimore to help as well, it was that big of a job. During that time, I was going back and forth from Baltimore to Annapolis, trying to make sure the job was done right. It was a project and a half, but it all worked out. That one really stands out in my mind.

What makes Ironmark a great place to work?

Everything about the company is just great. Great Christmas parties, great people we get to work with. Many years ago, I was offered a job with the government and I actually turned it down because of how good it was working here at Ironmark. I wanted to stay where I was. I was very loyal to the company, and I was rewarded for it.

When I come into Ironmark, it's always a great feeling. It's a great feeling to go into a company that you've been working at for so long. And to see it getting bigger and bigger! I had no idea this company would get this big. It’s great to see. Ironmark has changed so much, it’s amazing.

I miss coming to work even now. I really miss it. I’m ready to be back.

When you think about your time here, what comes to mind?

When I think about my time here, I think about Jeff. Jeff is one of the greatest people I ever met. I remember Jeff’s father brought him down to the shop on Lee Street. He was still in high school. His father said, “I want you to teach Jeff.” And I said ok, and that’s when our relationship started. I taught him how to run the Press. He was learning how to be a truck driver, how to be a salesman; he did it all.

I am really proud of Jeff. That young man has really done a fantastic job here. I never knew things would come to where they are today. That young man hung in there! He did what he was told, and now look at him. He’s doing a great job. He’s built a great company.

Any additional advice you can give from your years in printing?

When I got my job here, I  knew I was going to stay here. That meant I had to learn everything that came along the way; from wrapping packages to running the Press - I did it all.

Not everyone wants that. You got to really want to do this. That means late nights, early mornings. That means get the day squared away even with machines breaking down. I kept fighting. I kept going.

Words from Jeff Ostenso, Ironmark CEO, about Donald Murden

There is a first day of work for every employee. Mine started with the greeting from Donald, “Welcome, your father told me to teach you everything I know about printing.” It was early in the morning and Donald was standing outside our tiny shop on Lee Street. He was wearing a light blue smock with his hands tucked into the front pockets. From that moment on, Donald would treat me like I was in a Printshop bootcamp. He introduced me to every piece of equipment and would meticulously describe how each worked. Occasionally, he would throw a job in the trash and come back to tell me how I messed up another job and that he would have to talk to my father about my performance. 

One piece of equipment was extremely hard to grasp. Donald was the expert at printing on an ITEK machine. ITEK was a fancy word for a printing press that developed its own paper plates. You had to have perfect ink and water balance to get a clean copy off the press. I will never forget Donald saying, “I don’t know why I’m showing you this, I’m the only person on earth that can run this press.” This ITEK machine was surely a challenge and a mess to learn. But with his time and patience he taught me how to print efficiently on this equipment. 

Over the years, Donald has been my “go-to” guy when the late nights were needed to satisfy a customer request. He has always been a true professional. Not only in the shop but in front of the customers as well. He has delivered jobs on the weekend to make sure the customer was happy, and their job was on time. He always approaches his job with pride, taking ownership in all he does. It has been the highlight of my career to work alongside Donald learning, laughing, and admiring his skill.

Written by Jeff Ostenso

Jeff Ostenso, CEO of Ironmark, one of the largest and most forward-thinking print and communications companies in the Mid-Atlantic, is a national leader in the print industry. He built Ironmark with the vision to grow clients’ revenues and to provide employees with livelihoods for their families. He’s forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, and downright honest. Since taking over the family business in 1992, Ostenso grew the company -- then Frank Gumpert Printing -- through acquisition, as well as organically. Not only did he acquire capabilities the company didn't offer, but he also attracted sophisticated and cutting-edge talent to deliver these new capabilities. Ostenso’s strategic vision and steadfast leadership have taken Ironmark from a $2.7m local print shop to a $40m national marketing and communications company of tomorrow.