Expert Print Management – Spotlight
Expert Print Management owned and managed by Paul Youngs is a successful Norwich based business working with marketers and marketing departments of businesses throughout the UK. Paul has over thirty years’ experience in the print industry, and over that time has seen significant change and survived economic turmoil more than once, but nothing quite prepared him for 2020.
All three areas of the business – print, banners and promotional products – started to experience a slowdown in early March and by 20 March when lockdown commenced, all orders had stopped coming in.
“After a challenging 2019 influenced by Brexit, January and February had been buoyant. Just as it felt the economy was picking up, Covid-19 hit and stopped activity overnight. No one had a clue what was going to happen next,” remembers Paul.
Paul had restructured in late 2019 leaving him running the business alone. This gave him the benefit of not having the worry of employees’ welfare or dealing with furlough, but it also meant he had no team to talk to or discuss decisions with. His positive attitude and determination to keep going provided the motivation that he needed.
“I follow Brad Sugars so took his 12 Day Survival Guide course and kept reading coaching materials. I also rang around my clients and contacts that were still open, to find out more about what people needed and what has happening out there. I realised it was important to speak to other positive business owners to keep a positive mind-set” says Paul. He notes that for those who continued to work, some strong relationships have developed and is pleased with the attitude and mind-set local businesses have shown: “There is definitely an attitude of collaboration and working together for the common good, with a less selfish approach than before lockdown. I formed some great working relationships and hope they continue. The change in approach surprised me to a certain degree but is very welcome”.
Paul quickly realised that print alone was not going to be enough to keep the business afloat during the lockdown and that he needed to diversify. Those still operating needed floor stickers, signage and banners to support social distancing and hand hygiene, which he was readily set up to provide. Paul decided to take it to the next level; “If organisations needed signage about hand hygiene, they also needed sanitisation stations and the consumables to fill them. I decided to diversify into all Covid-secure products, not just the signage and print element”.
Paul set up a separate website, using the same branding of Expert Print Management but under the name https://www.covidessential.online/. He started looking for new supply chains and new markets. He opted for local suppliers where possible with the stainless steel sanitiser and hand sanitiser being made in Norfolk. The new website was put together and went live within five days. Paul kept communication open and continued to blog, sharing Government advice and signposting businesses to support. There have been many long days, and early starts to get everything in place and Paul acknowledges it was a steep learning curve. “It started with the idea of providing Covid-secure print-related products and moved on to sanitiser stations, and PPE. In the future, I am planning to include all cleaning products and materials, eventually moving away from a Covid- driven demand, towards a more generic clean and hygienic work environment demand”, explains Paul.
Paul has taken advantage of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Small Business Grant Funding, that have helped to ensure both sides of the business are in a strong financial position moving forward.
The future is looking positive. The print business started to pick up again in mid-June and the Covid Essential business is increasing in range and clientele every day. Paul has plans to develop and grow the business over the next three to six months, including the recruitment of a new team member and taking on warehouse premises. “This is not something that I had planned or envisaged. I recognised a new demand in the market and decided to move quickly to fill it. Once the decision was made, I have just ploughed on. The next few months are going to be interesting”, states Paul.