By his own admission, Tim Delahay had a lot to do when DSTi acquired the GE mailing centre in Bristol to form DST International Output (DSTi Output). Not one to shy away from a challenge, upon being appointed chief executive, Delahay set out to create "the perfect company". It was a big goal for a business with low morale and a staff attrition rate of hit 25%. Six years on and Delahay is well on course. "Our staff attrition rate is less than 1% and we have a waiting list of potential employees," he proudly reflects. "We have put staff at the centre of the business and built a brand they can be proud of."
Indeed, workforce satisfaction is central to Delahay’s theory of good management. A whole raft of measures has been implemented, such as the staff consultancy committee, where employees have their say on issues ranging from environmental strategy to free fruit, and the introduction of an IT helpdesk serving both office and home computers. However, it is DSTi Output’s appraisal system that grabs one’s attention.
The system is designed to demystify the promotion process and create a transparent and equal working environment. Accordingly, staff are banded and placed on a sliding scale. At regular intervals, each employee is assessed against certain criteria, such as efficiency and attendance, and they move up or down the scale in line with performance. When the next band is reached, a pay rise is automatically granted. Transparency rules the system, with each member of staff able to see their own and their colleagues’ performance. Training is offered to all workers in order for them to progress their skills, take on new roles or move up to the next pay band.
Delahay says: “Everyone knows exactly where they stand. There is no danger of favouritism, if a member of staff wants a pay rise or to take on a new role, they know exactly what they have to do to achieve that and how far the are from it.”
DSTi Output was born in 2002 when US firm DST Systems acquired GE Mailing Services, the American corporate giant’s transactional print and distribution centre, through its subsidiary DST International. The business had moved into digital in 2000, but, as Malcolm Webb, the company’s sales and marketing director freely admits, it “didn’t really go that well at first”. Today, however, the DST International Group claims to be the largest digital printer in the world through its 22 sites across 13 countries, with an 85% market share of the burgeoning international transpromotional market. At its Bristol site alone, the firm is capable of 1.5m mailings a day.
These figures are perhaps not surprising when you consider that back in 2005, Delahay announced a £40m investment programme and promised to launch a “mailing revolution”. Almost £10m of that investment went into the Bristol site, which was kitted out with the world’s first 4/4 Kodak Versamark, which joined a pair of 4/1 machines. But DSTi Output’s offering is not all about high volumes and heavy metal – Delahay has a policy of never selling more than 60% of the company’s capacity at any one time and more often than not, operates at around 30%. According to Delahay, DSTi’s USP lies in its software development. “We are a technology company,” he says. “Our unique offering is in developing the technology that enables printing applications.”
Take Hi-Response for example, the company’s latest direct mail software. Hi-Response allows customers to create content using either text or images, while maintaining control by writing their own data rules for messages. They are then printed in full colour and mailed and delivered to the customer within 72 hours. Hi-Response joins its other flagship software Multibill, which enables companies to send out multiple pieces of transactional mail in a single bundle, reducing mailing costs by up to 70%, the company says.
Delahay believes products such as Hi-Response will drive growth in the fledgling transpromo market. He believes that clients need to be educated in the benefits of the marketing method for it to realise its full potential. “Transpromo is a mix of personalisation and interaction,” he says. “Communication should be timely, relevant and non-intrusive. People look at bills in a totally different way to how they look at other business to consumer communication and the potential of transpromo lies in harnessing that interaction.”
DSTi Output has come a long way since the days of GE Mailing Services, with a turnover approaching £20m. Delahay’s ambition has driven growth in the business, but it is the cultural transformation that is most notable and it is that which will underpin future growth for the company.
DSTI OUTPUT FACTFILE
UK offices Bristol, Surbiton, Leeds
Chief executive Tim Delahay
Services print fulfilment, communications management, e-services
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