What do you do at Graphix?
I oversee production throughout the print and signage areas of the business, but in saying that the place runs smoothly in the very capable hands of Jess Martin our Office Manager and Paul Sundy our Production Manager. I still like making stuff and solving customers ‘out of the box’ requirement. So, you will find me most days on the tools.
How did you get started in the business?
I was 29 years old and working in the commercial print department of Taranaki Newspapers. I was frustrated with how slow the wheels of change turned in a corporate setting, and how slow they could be to embrace new technology. So, I asked my boss if they would consider letting me contract back to them if I bought my own computer went out on my own. This was a big step back then, working from home was not even a thing. I am eternally thankful that they put their trust in me and for the entire time that TNL Print was around I never approached or let any of their clients work directly with me.
As a business owner, what are your top three priorities?
The welfare of my team.
Looking after our clients’ needs really well.
Giving back to community organisations, or to anyone that brings something new to Taranaki that needs a bit of help to get started.
What made you choose your current location?
It was during an off the cuff social conversation on the double decker bus when it was in New Plymouth back in 2008. We sat across the aisle from Robert Brown the owner of the Whopping Big Carrot. Graphix was across the road where the SPCA Op Shop is now. Robert mentioned that he was thinking of selling his business and as it happens Sharon and I had talked about that building being the only one we’d ever consider buying. So, when I said to him, we wouldn’t be interested in the business, but if you were selling the building let us know. He said, that’s what I mean. So on a hand shake that night we bought his building, sold our house 2 weeks later and moved into the back of the old building with 2 teenage children to start renovating.
Whom do you seek advice from in business?
Early on we realised that we didn’t know anything about running a business. We started by attending every training we could, Venture Taranaki and Taranaki Chamber of Commerce helped a lot with this in the early years. Not only was the training a necessity, but the side benefit was, we met a lot of people, and some of them are still clients and friends today.
I am a firm believer in ‘when the student is ready the teacher will appear’. This has freakishly happened so many times over the years. Just as we really needed to know something the right person would come along to help us out. We have had advisors on and off throughout the past 26 years. I think always being open to learning new things has also brought many opportunities, so a constant attitude to learning and change has always been forefront in our business.
What is your management style?
My management style is fairly laid back, giving people responsibility, and letting them shine. I enjoy seeing the reactions from team members when they take something on and make it their own. I always say, “knowing what you’re doing is completely overrated” and “what’s the worst that can happen?” You should never let the fear of making a mistake stop you giving something a go.
We have 2 young managers that lead the team extremely well, and by mentoring them and giving them access to any training they may want to take on, they are thriving. And so are the people they are working with.
How has technology impacted on how you conduct business?
We have always prided ourselves on being cutting edge with technology, learning new ways of doing things, investigating new product lines, machinery and how to look after our clients better. Right now, you also must be good at deciding what you don’t need, as there is so much out there. As we bring in new technology that makes life easier, fundamentally what we do hasn’t changed. We make stuff and like building relationships with our clients. It may be old school thinking but keeping the human interaction in business is still essential.
What do you look for in an employee?
Attitude, Aptitude and team fit; the rest can be taught.
To what do you attribute your success?
Success is a journey not a destination, and we’re very much still on the journey. Don’t really think of it as success, we love helping others, and bringing them along for the ride. We have worked hard to make life easier if that makes sense. If you do everything you can to support your team and look after your clients well, then business is simple.
Always be open to learning new things, I think when this stops, it’s time to hand over to the younger generation.