Meet the CEO: Don Clampitt

The head of Clampitt Paper Co. wants to help you look good.

A skilled and gregarious marketer, Clampitt Paper’s Don Clampitt has a promise for North Texas CEOs: “We can make you look good on paper.” Clampitt is the son of Max Clampitt, who founded the Dallas-based paper company in 1941 with his wife, one employee, and a truck. Today the company boasts about 225 employees, six paper warehouses in Texas and Oklahoma, and 15 retail stores (most called FasClampitt) in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Annual revenue hovers around $165 million; customers range from printers and publishers to “ordinary consumers.” Referring to his company as “the Elliott’s Hardware” of paper products, Clampitt is a chip off the old block whose mission is “inspiring people that print is still relevant.” He recalls with a laugh his late father’s response to someone who’d asked whether paperless offices weren’t inevitable. Replied Max: “There’ll be a paperless office when there’s a paperless restroom.”   

Title: Chairman and CEO 

Age: 56

First job: I worked in the wash-and-chamois rack at the Lone Star Cadillac dealership at Pearl Street and Ross Avenue, washing cars. 

Worst job: During college at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, I worked during the day for an engineering firm that specialized in submersible pumps. I spent all day making copies, making sure the product books they gave their customers were current. It was tediously boring.

Other careers considered: None, really. I was lucky to have spent a lot of quality time with my father. I grew up idolizing him, so it was natural for me to go into the paper business.

Management style: Energetic and collaborative.

Strengths: I’ve been told that I’m kind of a heart guy, versus a head guy. A lot of my decisions are made with my heart. The same heart gives me the passion for what I do. I truly care about what I do and how our customers react.

Weakness: The longer I run the whole show, the better I get at the operations and finance aspects of the business. But I’m definitely more of a marketing and sales guy.  

Biggest challenge: As technology evolves, our industry’s challenge is making sure that people understand how paper can be even more relevant. Also, just as we’ve moved from straight fine paper to the wide-format digital space, we have to make sure that our company is continually looking at new and different opportunities for growth. 

Family: My wife, Vickie, and I have been married for a year. She has two daughters and four granddaughters. I’ve got three children and a stepson.

Best advice recieved: My dad told me, “There are no shortcuts for doing the work.” He also said, “Don’t give up. Keep plugging.”

Just for fun: I like playing golf at the Dallas Country Club, and also hanging out with my kids. I especially enjoy watching my 15-year-old son play lacrosse and football.

Reading: I like two kinds of books: total action books, like those by Brad Thor, for example, and nonfiction business books. I’m a big fan of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s books. His last one, Onward, has been especially inspirational to me. I also developed our Clampitt Creative Center on Ambassador Row—where paper creativity is on display for learning and brainstorming—after reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great. 

Secret of your success: The people around me. I have a great team, and we complement each other in every aspect.

Retirement plans: I have no plans to retire. I’m having too much fun!


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