Bob Sibert is the third generation of his family to serve as president of

click to enlarge Q&A with Bob Sibert
Bob Sibert with a cake featuring different children’s book characters that was created in June 2010 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Bound to Stay Bound.

 Bound to Stay Bound Books. His grandfather, Lawrence D. Sibert, began working for a Jacksonville printing and bookbinding company in 1908 and later started his own company with a business partner. Originally known as the New Method Book Bindery, Bound to Stay Bound Books now operates out of a 110,000-square-foot facility on the western edge of Jacksonville.

Bob was born and raised in Jacksonville and graduated from Augustana College, then later obtained his MBA from Columbia Business School. He officially joined the family business in 1978, although he had been helping out there since the age of 8. Bob succeeded his father as president in 1992.

Bob lives in Jacksonville with his wife, Karen, and way too many books. They have two adult children, Laura and David.

What are your first memories of the family business?

When I was a kid, I used to go down to the business on weekends and help my dad with the mail. They would open up the mail on Saturdays to get a jump on the week. When I was a teenager, I started working there over the summer doing odd jobs around the office.

When did you decide you would follow in your father's footsteps to run Bound to Stay Bound Books?

When I was in business school getting my MBA from Columbia, I kind of got a feel for what life in the big corporations was like and decided that really wasn't for me. So I decided a smaller business like Bound to Stay Bound was maybe a good idea.

click to enlarge Q&A with Bob Sibert
Bob Sibert with his father, Robert F. Sibert, around the time Bob joined the company in 1978.

What did you learn from y
our grandfather and father about operating the business?

My grandfather was a big stickler for quality. There were folk tales or legends about how he could just go out and walk through the bindery and look at the stacks of books everywhere. If one book was not right somewhere he would notice it, pick it out and someone would have to fix it.

My father made friends with all of the publishers we dealt with, and they all had great respect and admiration for him. I would consider him to be a kind of consummate salesman.

How has the business changed during the years in which you have been involved?

Everything keeps changing. There have been a lot of changes in automation, in the machinery and the materials we use. There have been changes in who you do business with. The books are constantly changing as well. But mostly it's been change for the better.

What feelings do you have about running a business that has been in Jacksonville for more than 125 years?

I'm proud that we have lasted that long, but there is pressure to keep it going. I also feel gratitude for all of the people who have helped the business and who have helped me along the way.

click to enlarge Q&A with Bob Sibert
In 1959, a new headquarters was constructed at 1880 W. Morton Ave. It has been added on to several times over the years, and 125 employees now work out of a 110,000-square-foot facility.

What is your secret to keeping your many long-term employees?

We have great employees. There's a certain amount of loyalty that you get if you take care of them, and then they want to take care of you because we have a shared purpose. Keep preaching what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how it's good for society and for people. If they believe in it, then it gives them a reason to want to keep helping you. I consider our employees to be family, so it's a family business in more ways than one.

Why do you feel it is important to give back to the Jacksonville community?

click to enlarge Q&A with Bob Sibert
The Illinois State Historical Society presented Bob Sibert with an award in 2019 to recognize Bound to Stay Bound as an Illinois centennial business.

That's where we operate, and there are all kinds of people in this community that have helped me through the years, and it's where our employees are based. So by helping the community we are helping them. You don't object when people come and say, 'We have a Little League team that needs sponsoring,' or something like that. In fact, we expect such requests.

What advice would you give to young people today who are entering the work force?

Be prepared for change, and be prepared to constantly learn.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?

I heard the shot that killed John Lennon. I was going to school in New York City, and my apartment was just a block away from the Dakota apartment building where he lived. I heard about who got shot later that day on the radio. I was amazed. I had heard all of these horrible things about New York City crime but had not really seen any up until that point. It was a shock when I found out what had happened.

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