Page 8 - Print 21 Magazine March-April 2019
P. 8

Leading Article
Having skin
in the game
Ahen and a pig have different levels
of engagement with a breakfast of bacon and eggs – the hen is involved, but the pig is committed.
This old saw goes a long way in explaining the different levels of engagement management have with business. The printing industry is mostly made up of family-owned, owner-operated companies of around five employees or less. It’s hard to get statistics but my reckoning is they make up more than
half of all printing businesses. That we’re still the second largest manufacturing industry is a testament to the diversity and determination of printers. It also explains why in the face of nearly overwhelming challenges, the industry continues to be resilient and relatively successful.
Recently I spent some time John Georgantzakos, managing director and owner of Spot Press in Sydney (see page 18 this issue). His is a lot bigger than the average printing company, playing in the grand arena of newspaper heatset web printing. With three big presses and around 100 workers, he mixes it with publicly listed companies such as Ive Group, Ovato and even News Corp and Nine. It should be a no contest but John’s
got skin in the game in the way most of the others don’t. And he’s not going away.
He tells me his customers, nearly all the ethnic newspaper publishers across
Australia, are mostly owner operators who’ll fight to save their livelihoods in a way others won’t. Mainly stable businesses, they’re defying the internet devastation
of print, while delivering a real service to their communities.
In the past few years we’ve seen
plenty of regional newspapers owned
by the big groups shuttered, decimated
by management because they were not profitable enough. It begs the question; profitable enough for whom? Fairfax, now Nine, was owned by private equity funds accustomed to double-digit profits. Nice work if you can get it, but not the end of the world if you can’t, not if you’ve got skin in the game. Many small country newspapers not only provide their communities with the news and a sense of identity, but also their owner publishers with a living wage. More of them used to operate their own printing presses. When the technology changed they changed with it, ironically delivering extra print runs to the regional printing sites of the same big groups that were closing down their own titles.
There’s a distinct difference between the way we do business here in the Anglosphere – UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – and the way it’s
done, say, in Europe. Here it seems an entrepreneur develops a business, builds it up and then sells it on. Nothing wrong
with that except that they usually sell it to companies where the management is not as invested in its success.
In Europe companies are operated in a way to ensure they are handed on to the family as sustainable businesses. Decisions are made for the long-term health of the enterprise. It becomes a lot more than simply a wealth creation vehicle. It’s family first, business second. There are many exceptions, of course, but as a generality it’s true.
Not to say that paid management can’t be as assiduous and careful in their stewardship as owner operators. General managers in printing are as professional a bunch as you could hope to find. It’s just that their sense of what success looks like must invariably be very different to an owner’s.
I like family-owned, owner-operator businesses. I work for one. I even still have one, albeit after passing over the magazine title to Yaffa Media. Most printers I meet are owner operators. Even the largest independent supplier to the industry, Currie Group, is family owned. It gives a certain admirable mindset to the industry.
All in all we’re a wonderful bunch of swine. 21
Patrick Howard
– Publishing Editor
Patrick Howard
Wayne Robinson
Jake Nelson
Lindy Hughson
CONTRIBUTORS: Scott Telfer, Andrew Macaulay, Ruth Cobb, Doris Prodanovic
John Viskovich (02) 9213 8215
Matthew Gunn
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Print21 is a Yaffa Media publication, Copyright 2018. Print21 is the official publication of the Printing Industries Association of Australia.
The magazine is published
six times a year for
professionals in the
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8 Print21 MARCH/APRIL 2019

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