Retired CEO of Markem Joe Baute discussing Markem-Image’s lack of a union (2019)

Joe Baute is a classic American success story. He grew up on farm in Rhode Island, living in a modest working class family. Through hard work and honest effort he made his way to Dartmouth College, the same college that his eventual boss Dave Putnam. He also fought in WWII and the Korean War. Through his childhood, education and experience of war, he became obsessed with always asking questions about how he can be better. He had an innate curiosity for innovation. He brought this attitude of always bettering himself to Markem. They went through rapid innovation while he was there, including the transition to digital inkjet printing.

How did he help create this atmosphere? Markem was a small company. He made sure that everyone there felt like they were doing something important and that they were valued. It felt like a family for a lot of folks. There was certain values being promoted. Always work on getting better, putting the customer first and working together. Workers appreciated this environment. They enjoyed working at Markem and had a respect for the Putnams and Joe Baute. Joe Baute helped build this culture and it continued after he retired in 1993. Joe preached having environmentally friendly inks that were safe for the workers and the customers. Him and the Putnam’s made it a priority to get to know the workers and listen to what they have to say. Everyone felt like they were an important part of a really good company.

Mario Sica talking to me about pay raises at Markem (2019)

Mario Sica can attest to this environment. He started at Markem in 1995. He is the epitome of what Joe Baute valued as a worker. He cared about quality and the customer over everything else. He was loyal to the company and worked his butt off. He shows how Joe created a company that was built for success because the workers wanted to succeed. If he could do it all again, he would. He has no regrets working at Markem. However, this came with consequences. Mario worked 14 and 16 hour days. He did this without asking for anything in return. He worked so hard that he ended up being told he had to retire due to his los of eye sight. This loyalty and demand to be better took a toll on the workers. It was worth it before Dover bought Markem because he had a respect for the owners. He felt like they listened to the workers, the ones that knew the work better than anyone else. After Dover bought Markem, all the things that drove Mario to work hard and respect the company were lost. They have toxic inks now, and they don’t listen to the workers. He learned to just do his job and keep quiet but it wasn’t the same. He ended up retiring as one of the most well respected amongst his fellow employees.