After more than 50 years, Precision Printing is now one of the UK’s top providers of business stationery and printing services. To give us an insight into this ever-changing industry, we chatted with commercial director at Precision Printing, Paul Mason.
Can you explain your role at Precision Printing to us?
I’m the group commercial director, which is a position that handles and deals with the company’s sales team, estimating team, and majority of the purchasing team, as well as controls and confirms all prices and invoicing to our customers.
How long have you been at Precision Printing and how did you reach your current position?
I’ve been at Precision Printing for around 23 years, but that’s not where I started. I actually got into print from school at the age of 16 after visiting my local job centre and noticing a role for an office junior in a local print company. I had no plans to work in print but I needed a job and didn’t want to go into further education, so I applied and got it.
I stayed at this company for most of my career before I went to Precision Printing as an estimator. After a while, I was promoted to office manager and then five years later at the age of 28, I was given a directorship. Since then the business has grown significantly from £2-3 million in one building in central London, to a group over three sites which will turn over £22 million this year.
What do you do day-to-day at Precision Printing?
Let me tell you, no two days are the same. I start with my journey to work at 6:15am, where I mentally plan my day based on what work I know I need to complete immediately. The commute might also include replying to emails and taking calls before I reach the office. From there, it’s anyone’s guess, although I always work on pricing for key customers, meeting with both suppliers and clients, and holding discussions with various staff members. These discussions can include things like: queries on specific projects, any problems with production, directions the sales team can take with a customer, potential products we should buy, invoicing issues, and dealing with payment problems.
Have there been any industry challenges during your time with at Precision Printing?
We have challenges coming our way on a daily basis, but we overcome them as a team. The toughest obstacle in my mind is our customer’s overall perception that printed products are effective, when in fact we prove time and time again that this is simply not the case. The online marketing world is a busy and huge place, and it is very difficult to get your message heard. What better way than a targeted, hand-delivered message for the end user to actually feel, open and read the message you are trying to convey?
Are things getting better?
As I said, every day presents a fresh challenge to overcome. But what I love about my role is the excitement, which is why I feel I have stayed with the company so long. But even though we are facing some of the biggest challenges our industry has seen in my lifetime, we continue to grow. Presently, our sales are up 21% year-on-year, with sales coming from different sectors and customers compared to 2016.
Is there anything you would like people to know about the industry?
Yes, not to believe the idea the print is defunct. There’s definitely a place for print in today’s world, and everyday we’re learning and understanding how to use it. We sometimes forget the world is a huge place. There is enough space for all of us to deliver a message in many different forms and we should embrace diversity in all walks of life — but it’s the medium of marketing and advertising that this message is paramount for Precision.
Are there any business role models you look up to?
Martyn Young was someone that inspired everyone that he met with an overriding ambition to succeed, both professionally and personally. Unfortunately, he recently passed away, but he remains a source of inspiration for all of us and continues to be a huge influence on our business, even though he had only joined us around three years ago.
Do you have any advice for aspiring commercial directors?
Don’t do it! Of course, I’m kidding: I would say go for it — work hard, never stop learning, listen to the people around you, and make sure you have a strong and dedicated team. To be successful in this industry and role, you can’ do it alone.
Any tips for people wanting to work in print?
Print has never been so interesting, exciting and challenging — so embrace it! With the rocketing rate of advanced technology and innovative ideas, this industry is pushing the boundaries of what we thought only a few years ago would be impossible.
What about your Precision Printing highlights?
My main highlight is simply watching us grow from humble beginnings to become one of the pioneers of the industry. Seeing this small family-run business that I joined 23 years ago with 15-20 staff grow every year with the help of amazing staff is amazing. Precision has seen steady but sustained growth over the last 13 years, and to be part of that journey is my biggest highlight.
Finally, give us one sentence of snappy business advice…
Not sure this is catchy, but it’s what I’ve tried to keep in mind during my career:
“There are no right or wrongs, but there are some basic rules. Work very hard, always listen, be prepared, never give up, and once you get the job, surprise and delight.”