Page 18 - Print 21 Magazine May-June 2019
P. 18

Navigating change - David Currie’s story
A voyage is never over until the ship arrives at its destination. A life’s mission is not completed until the person calls it quits. On both counts David Currie is under full sail, as owner and executive chairman of the region’s largest privately owned graphic arts supplier, Currie Group, and as the navigating torchbearer for the business founded by his father Bill. In this 70th anniversary year of the company, he celebrates 50 years since he signed on for the trip, writes Patrick Howard.
his business. I think he figures that if someone can stay around in the business as long as I have, they must know what they’re doing.”
David Currie is far removed from the stereotype of the figurehead leader. He is part of the operating team of his company, ready to step
in whenever his unique contribution can help. He makes himself available to staff and customers as he always has and if he’s wound back his legendary work rate, he’s still at the forefront of Currie Group’s activities.
“I don’t put in as many hours as
I used to and I guess I’m a bit more of a grumpy old thinker these days. But I’ll still talk to my customers
at any time of the day, night, or weekend. I still go and sell a lot
of machines personally.”
Where it began
Looking back now, David Currie admits he was never cut out for the role of hard-handed mechanic that his father had prepared for him when he joined the company. The product of a private school education, he soon found a career ‘on the tools’ at Currie & Southward Printers’ Engineers little to his taste.
“When I first started, we were a small engineering service company with a couple of lathes and milling machines. We used to make parts for printing machines. Every time it rained the water just flowed through under duckboards.”
Bill Currie was not the kind of parent to make it easy. Sweeping the floor and taking morning tea orders from the engineers were considered an appropriate introduction to the business. “I started in 1969. I was always the boss’s son but I started by cleaning the toilets and going around at 9.30 taking staff orders with a brown paper bag, putting on the big kettle to make the pot of tea, always in overalls. I’d be welding a lot, making little parts on milling machines. I really didn’t like it.
It was that sort of start.”
His advancement proved to be a journey of self-discovery, of taking chances and seizing opportunity when it presented itself. Frustrated by working in a service industry where he had no reason to talk
with customers, apart from when their machinery broke down, he began developing the transport side of the business. Soon he was shifting presses around Melbourne, and starting up a used machinery trading activity. In his own words
David Currie has survived and thrived through some of the most turbulent and challenging decades in
the history of the printing industry. As the iconic leader of his high- technology supply enterprise, he
is more than a survivor from a
time when graphic arts merchants were individuals rather than multi-national corporations. He comes from a time when offset presses were the latest printing technology and when Australian and New Zealand printers relied on their suppliers for connection to manufacturing trends.
The 68-year-old is still on deck, an active and successful executive chairman, who continues to lead from the front. He takes pride
in being engaged in all the major deals of the digital press and print finishing equipment that are
the foundation of the company’s business. Recognised by many
of his long-term customers as
a grey eminence of the industry, he is sometimes flattered when received into their businesses as an honoured guest.
“They seem pleased to see me.
I guess if you stay around long enough you become some kind
of fount of wisdom,” he smiles.
“I was up at a customer’s place in Queensland recently and he took great pride in showing me around
“I’ll still talk to my customers at any time of the day, night, or weekend. I still go and sell a lot of machines personally.”
18  Print21 MAY/JUNE 2019

   16   17   18   19   20