Many of us don’t think of ourselves as entrepreneurs. Or if we do, we feel more like accidental entrepreneurs. I certainly fall into the latter category.
I run a Group of Companies in the heart of industrial Manchester and am responsible for almost 50 people. Our businesses are made up of print management company Print Search, creative and design agency Caspa and print on demand company Aspen.
We offer a one-stop solution to clients but also recognises that some clients want to pick and choose what services they access whether creative/design, project management, print, warehouse and pick/pack despatch or more.
I started with the company as an Account Manager and always had an unwavering focus and passion for solving problems. When I became MD in 2015 I had a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish and was prepared to work tirelessly to accomplish that.
It was an increasingly tough market with print shrinking but I knew we had a great product, offered a great service and we had good people. Good people, I wanted to keep. So, I set about strengthening the business from within so we could survive the tough times.
Two things happened that were a true test of my ‘grit’ which I think is made up of persistence, passion and resilience. Firstly, imagine waking up one morning to find yourself totally deaf in one ear. Then imagine you have people totally depending on you to lead them through the turbulence of losing one of your biggest contracts in a sector that was shrinking even before the big squeeze
This was exactly the situation I faced two years ago. I was diagnosed with labyrinthitis which was brought on through the extreme stress of losing Stonegate, a major contract which employed 20% of my entire workforce.
Failure was not an option. I knew we needed to bring in new business and somehow do something even better than we had done before.
I knew I needed to protect and grow the Company but wanted growth with a conscience and to rebuild as a business with a purpose. I knew this would not be a substitute for commercial success and was determined to win the Stonegate contract back and build a robust new business pipeline too.
I embarked on a radical business review to strengthen the DCB Group using a powerful mix of initiatives, investments and incentives. At the same time, I was juggling medical appointments and undergoing major surgery to have a cochlear ear implant to regain some sound in my ear.
As part of this radical change, we placed a lot of focus on social value and using local initiatives to engage with our neighbouring businesses.
We describe ourselves as being tied to a City We Love and Manchester is home to most of our team and customers. We want to support the city and see it thrive. We have a strong partnership with charity Forever Manchester, which raises money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester and have supported them by holding coffee mornings, fundraiser events at Halloween / pancake day etc as well as sponsoring the tickets for their annual birthday party.
Looking inwards our CSR work has not only boosted community spirit, but it has also had an effect on our team morale. Our team proudly gets involved and it creates a positive environment within the office giving us all a common bond.
We experience a high retention rate with our staff and I believe this partly boils down to the fact we want our team to express their personality and our charity work gives them an outlet to do this. We now know that we have some star bakers and comedians at the DCB Group!
Just some of the initiatives in place to support staff include:
- Monday mindfulness sessions, including meditation in meeting rooms
- Staggered start/finish times
- Flexible working (including Cloud-based systems so employees can work wherever they please)
- Time off for nativity plays, sports matches etc.
- Wednesday walks, fun Friday’s with quizzes/bingo
- Family fun days
- Decorated offices for special events – Christmas, Halloween etc.
- Confidential employee assist programmes
- Monthly ‘cross-business’ briefings
- Sugary and low-fat snacks provided in the office
- Suggestion boxes for senior management
People often ask, how do you balance engaging in CSR whilst still reaching business goals? We truly believe that when a client decides to work with us, their decision is based on much more than just seeing our credentials and case studies. It is about having a connection which speaks to the beliefs of our business. I believe this is what draws people to work with us; we are a business partner that cares.
We also have the confidence to continue to innovate and invest. We have replaced four printers with a Canon Océ Colorado 1640 as part of a broader investment aimed at reducing environmental impact and boosting short-run capabilities. We also took on a Morgana DigiBook 300XL PUR binder and a Duplo DC-616 Pro cutter-creaser to bring new finishing capabilities in-house. The total cost of the three machines was around £125,000 which was a confident decision to invest in our future.
Confidence aside, I am told the core competency of an entrepreneur is not business acumen or marketing ability but rather empathy and the ability to understand the feelings of others. Being a good leader is about people wanting to follow you, not being forced to follow you. I also believe that in these turbulent, fast-paced times you have to occasionally accept failure but still keep moving forward and always seek opportunities.
We accidental entrepreneurs are a pretty single-minded lot!