Dave Gibbons Q&A
Thanks for sitting down with us Dave. Appreciate you making the time for a quick chat as I know you’re busy and it’s quite hectic now the economy is as open as it has been for nearly two years. First off, just to ease you in, we’ll start with an easy one.
Q: How long has KNP been around?
It’s a pleasure to sit down so no problem at all answering a few questions. I started KNP back in 2006, February in-fact, so we’ve not long ago celebrated our 15th birthday. Something that I’m really proud of. Given the nature of the business, many printers never make it close to that length of time. And I still love my industry just as much as I did on day one.
Q: So you’ll no doubt have seen a lot of change over the years?
Oh yes. Speed and the introduction of digital technology have been two positive changes. Litho presses, the mainstays of print for decades, have got much faster. The quality has improved with far better printing inks, and not only that but the ability to run more inks on the same press. Our Heidelberg printing press is a 10 colour printer so we can combine speciality and spot colours, or pantones, with the usual four colour CMYK inks quickly and efficiently. Also, digital machines now offer a flatter printed image which looks more like a traditional litho job compared with the old fashion glossy digital print. We upgraded our own digital presses last year to a state of the art production press which can now print Gold, Silver, Clear and White (yep, white) inks. And to keep pushing boundaries we’ve just added fluorescent Pink to our offerings! There are only a handful of printers in the country who can run al those colours, and on a single pass.
And one other change I’d mention is the importance of sustainability and delivering sustainable print solutions for our clients. That’s a more recent change as businesses come to terms with having to behave in a more environmentally responsible way. Something personally I’m delighted to see and something KNP are committed to.
Q: Even with so much change, the last 18 months have been seismic for the UK economy. Coronavirus has completely changed the landscape. How have you fared?
I sat back at the start of the pandemic and realised that I had to reinvent my company, as our industry was undoubtedly going to suffer because businesses were cutting back their spend and reducing budgets. We moved into producing Covid signage and floor graphics amongst other things. On top of that we supported local communities, offering free downloads from our website for a range of items from working from home and mental heath tips to colouring in posters supporting the NHS and key workers. And we provided printed materials free of charge to charities and community support groups. We’re like a family so it was a natural thing to want to help where we could. All of these things have actually led to a positive outcome as we’ve formed new relationships and gained new customers in new sectors which has carried us through to the recovery that the country now finds itself in.
Q: And how has the print industry fared?
Honestly, the first 6 months, our industry was suffering terribly. Unfortunately several printers weren’t able to continue operating. The sector started to gain momentum again in July last year until lockdown 2. Then we all suffered again, but not as badly as the original outbreak. Now that we’ve reached July 19th I feel that our industry will enter a boom as the purse strings are loosened and businesses will have better budgets back in place.
Q: What’s been your approach throughout the pandemic?
Don’t cut back, invest, and support. We’ve stayed open throughout. We adapted as I mentioned, but our approach has been to do all we can to support our clients and those businesses that needed us. That meant putting in place new practices to create a safe environment for the team. And several of them worked from home when possible. We’ve maintained staff levels and continued with our marketing spend. It’s important to be visible, letting people know you’re still out there. Because when they’re ready, you’re the one they remember. So your marketing goes further and you have a greater share of voice. Another important part of out strategy has been to continue investing in the future with new kit, from printing presses to digital die-cutting and digital foiling machines. And committing to help organisations, communities and individuals where we could as I said earlier.
Q: There have been some big investments then, what will they help you to offer customers?
By making sure we have the most up to date equipment and we’re able to offer really exciting, diverse printing techniques and finishes, our customers benefit in loads of ways. And when you’re talking about certain types of clients like creative agencies, it’s important for them to understand that not only they but their customers will benefit as a result. With KNP we talk about ‘welcome to more’. Our customers have never had more choice, more value, more creativity and the ability to deliver more wow than they have right now. Our investments are making it easier fro them to do all the kinds of things that they wanted to do but haven’t been able to do before. Whether that be down to the advancements in techniques or the reduction in timings
Q: Have you had to make any changes to how you operate?
Yes, but that’s what you need to do to keep ahead. It’s always been the same really. If you don’t adapt you won’t survive. You have to make sure you know what’s happening in the market and you’re constantly in contact with customers. Listening to them and reacting to make sure you continue to meet their needs is vital. So adapting to meet customer needs has been target number one over the last 18 months. And I think the things I’ve already mentioned such as the new kit, offering new products and providing items free of charge to support worthwhile causes are all changes. In addition, we launched two new websites for online ordering and personalised cards. And there’s another new website we’ve just launched, KNP Promo, that offers a massive range of branded corporate merchandise. This makes it even easier for our customers to get everything they need from us. We don’t stop changing!
Q: And has there been any impact on the team?
With the drop in production throughout Covid I put in place training modules for our production and sales teams. Some of it was internal, mentoring. Some of it was using external companies. I wanted to make sure all our staff are multi-skilled and adaptable in other areas of the business. That wouldn’t have been possible previously. So again, the impact was about benefiting from investment. It’s been the same for me too! You’re never too old to learn new skills. We were also on e of the finalists in the Best SME category at the Suffolk Business Awards 2020. That really lifted the team but it’s a testament to them. They’ve adapted and adjusted to the ever changing situation amazingly and without them we’d never have made it through to the final.
Q: How have you helped your customers overcome their challenges during the pandemic?
Customer service has been key. Just delivering on what we say – doing whatever it takes to get it right because it’s your brand we’re bringing to life. From making sure we’ve been there to offer advice or even just for a chat. Sometimes a chat is what you need. Or working with them to make sure they get the right solution for their project. Supporting them with sourcing new products so they didn’t have to spend time they didn’t have. Or even driving hundreds of miles overnight to personally deliver a job.
Q: Looking ahead, what do you see as important for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
Continuing to commit to the local community for one. There’s been a real groundswell of support for local communities and I don’t think that’ll disappear. Relationships are key to the economy’s recovery, so being the best supplier / partner our customers have is central to KNP. And perhaps most importantly, commitment to the environment and sustainability. This is really growing in importance and it’ll only become more important. Far more people are becoming far more aware of it and, as consumers, demanding that the brands they choose are environmentally responsible. Sustainable printing is something we’ve been delivering for a long time and we’re committed to minimising our impact on the environment.
Q: Staying with the environment and sustainability, tell us a bit more about how you’re playing your part?
Without going into too much detail here it’s important to me that KNP play our part. We have to think about the planet only having finite resources and how future generations will live their lives. If we all do our bit and as a business we put in place the right processes, and act in the right way, it’ll help towards a better future for them. So we look at everything – how we power our premises through solar energy, how much of the print process we can recycle, the inks we use, where our paper comes from, providing electric car charging points, encouraging ride sharing, working with local suppliers to reduce journeys, loads. We talk about everything we do on our website, including being FSC certified and ISO14001 certified. To anyone reading this, please have a look.
Q: That’s brilliant to hear Dave, and last question before we let you go, what are the emerging trends you see that businesses will need to be aware of and respond to?
Quicker turnaround times, delivering quality that helps deliver stand out, providing innovation and being able to trust their suppliers. A little earlier in the year we ran a poll asking our customers and others who wanted to contribute to tell us what they thought was the most important thing they need from their suppliers as they come out of the pandemic. Quality and quick response times were the two most important things they were looking for.
But one emerging trend I see is what we’re calling ‘connected print’. QR codes are finally finding their feet now. When they first surfaced I don’t think businesses really worked out the best way to use them. But over the next 6 – 12 months I think we’re really going to see an explosion. And for print they’re a fantastic opportunity to help brands create a more seamless customer experience. That’s what all brands are striving for right now and connected print makes the offline to online journey so, so easy. It’s going to allow everything to be much more joined up and connected than it’s ever been.
Dave, it’s been great to chat with you and thanks very much for your time.