How did you come to be living in Coffs Harbour?
I was born and raised in Sydney and married my wife, Alana, there some 33 years ago. When we decided that we needed a lifestyle change, our daughter, Alice, was just 5 years old and our second daughter, Lucy, was just born. We had a successful business employing 35 people, but we were over the demanding city life. We wanted to get away and have a more relaxed and non-city upbringing and lifestyle for our family by the beach. So I guess you could say we were one of the early ‘sea changers’!
Axis Print Solutions has been operating for over 15 years. How did this business begin?
I was working for a major national business systems printer, Kalamazoo, and they were sold to a private equity company who took a new approach to operating the business without sales reps on the road. When I was made redundant, Alana and I looked at moving to Brisbane, because there were not any suitable jobs available on the coast. But lucky for us, we decided to take a risk, which paid off in the end. We said we would throw $3,000 and 3 months at starting a new business, and Axis Print Solutions was born. We have never looked back.
Being a print broker is vastly different to being a printer. What are the benefits of using the services of a print broker?
As a print broker, you manage your clients’ whole print requirements, as opposed to printer who tend to look at jobs on a one off basis. This allows for better efficiency and a much better relationship with our clients. Because we don’t own any print equipment, we look at each job and pick the most suitable press to print each job. A printer will try to print every job that comes through on their own machines, regardless if it’s the right press or not.
Our method generally ends up saving our clients money and getting them a better quality job. It also gives us a vast product range. If it’s printed, we can print it for you – regardless of what it is. We supply our customers everything from the smallest business card to wide format digital print for signage and widow displays. We have a large stable of specialist printers all over Australia we use regularly.
You haven’t always been in the print business, Peter. Can you tell us about your other business experiences?
Well, in one word, chickens … Believe it or not, before moving to Coffs Harbour I was in the business of further processing of chicken products, i.e. boning chicken breasts. We had a contract with Ingham Chickens for the duration of this business. So you can say that a chicken roast at our house is one of the best around! We started out with two employees and expanded to five retail shops throughout Sydney and 35 employees.
It was an extremely demanding industry to work in, with days always starting at 3.45am and often going through until 7.30pm at night. After 10 years of this demanding work schedule, we decided to sell up and move to the Coast.
We all know that the written and printed word is being somewhat overshadowed by the online digital world. What changes have you seen in the print industry over the past decade?
This is a hard question to answer. There are two things I think that are interesting changes to this industry. Firstly, we are seeing a collaboration with the digital world where print is complementing digital marketing strategies through the use of QR codes and new approaches like augmented reality. However, this change does not come without a certain level of concern, as there is a fear that print will be out-dated by the digital world in the future.
Secondly, there has been a big shift in businesses placing more emphasis on the traditional marketing materials that profile their companies. Look at business cards now as opposed to 10 years ago; there is no comparison. I have a Sydney client who spent over $40,000K on producing 1,000 presentation folders. $30,000k of that was in photography and graphic design. Print still has a strong foothold, at least for the foreseeable future.
Success does not come without its challenges. What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your business?
The biggest challenge we face is how we are going to be relevant in 10 years’ time. I see this challenge as not being our physical competitors, but actually how the world is evolving and how we can evolve to retain our market share and client base. Things like introducing display and visual impact products along with direct and smart mail products are areas that we’ve been focusing on to meet this challenge.
Print has become so much more than a set of business cards and letter head. Its purpose is really now to make the connection between the consumer and the business. Given the nature of our business and how we are connected to a national printer base, I feel we are in a strong position to meet the challenges as the digital age evolves.
What do you find most valuable about doing business in a regional area like Coffs Harbour?
Without a doubt, the client loyalty is a stand out characteristic of doing business in the region. There is a real ability to create long-term valuable relationships with clients and business people alike in this area. Also, what is very rewarding for my business and clients is the ability to bring current trends back from my city clients to our local client base.
As a print broker, I have established major national clients who are often managing large marketing budgets and have the flexibility to trial new methods and processes to connect better with their clients or customers. I am able to pass on this knowledge and experience to my local clients, which I believe gives them the opportunity to have a leading edge.
I’d also say that it’s important to play an active role within the business and local community and to get involved in activities, groups or events that interest you and even complement your business. I have supported many local business initiatives, including the establishment of Nextgen Leaders and supporting the Chamber of Commerce, Tubbys’ White Whales, Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge, Coffs Harbour Running Festival and Coffs Coast WRC Rally. We also provide free of charge small print jobs for numerous schools and local charities.
Peter, who has been a mentor to you in your career success?
Without a doubt, my biggest mentor is my big brother, Warwick Williams of Warwick Williams Real Estate, Drummoyne, which is the biggest real estate agency in inner-western Sydney. Warwick’s making was really the network that he has surrounded himself with, and I guess that’s what I have tried to establish here in Coffs with my business too. He’s one of my biggest supporters and has encouraged with any endeavours, and he’s also a major referral source of business for me.
If you could give one piece of advice to any business owner or aspirational professional, what would it be?
I think what has been most important for me has been forming strong strategic partnerships with like-minded complementary businesses to my offering. I actively refer my clients to a number of businesses that can complement not only my business offering, but deliver what my clients need.
I have also established a buying group of similar print managers like Axis Print Solutions, which has been very beneficial from a business think tank, brainstorming perspective.