Power 100 2015: 1

PrintWeek Team
Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Welcome to the Power 100, our 14th annual ranking of the industry’s power brokers. The 100 individuals in this year’s list make up much of the DNA of our great industry – from thoroughbred entrepreneurs, confirmed technophiles, inspirational leaders, innovators and strong silent types.

1 (2014: 51)

Mark Handford, Pureprint Group

Why How many other chief executives of circa £60m business have the ‘contact us’ email on the company website linked through to their account? Of course, that’s not reason enough to justify Pureprint boss Handford’s hefty leap of 50 places in this year’s Power 100 to claim the top spot.

However, turning a high-street letterpress printer he ran with his sister into one of the UK’s most admired print businesses probably is. And when you combine that with M&A activity, new funding and big-name hires and generally being recognised as a force for good in print, then the case is pretty much made.

To be fair, in terms of kit investments it’s been a fairly quiet year, but arguably the roll-out of a new Tharstern MIS, in terms of the streamlining impact, was one of its most significant investments in recent times.

We say arguably because Handford is a firm believer in people power, and the spend this year hasn’t been restricted to technology, with big hires including efficiency guru chief operating officer Anthony Thirlby and chief technology officer Mark Eggleton. In fact, over the years, Handford has recruited around eight former managing directors to the business, something the Brighton & Hove Albion season ticket holder is extremely proud of.

“I think a lot of his success is down to the fact that he has a knack of personally attracting talent and putting the right people in the right roles in all areas, and when you have that it’s actually very difficult not to be successful and grow,” says one fan.

However, the 2016 kit spending spree has already begun – with the firm announcing two new Heidelberg XL 106s set to be delivered in the first half of next year, and with Drupa around the corner the chances are that this is the beginning of what another watcher predicts could be a record-breaking capex year for Pureprint.

Equally the acquisition of 100-staff, £10m-turnover wide-format specialist Imprint Group around this time last year, which coincided with Uckfield-based Pureprint receiving a £5.3m investment from the Business Growth Fund, looks likely to be just the beginning of Handforth’s M&A activity.

Unsurprisingly, given his networking skills, Handford gleaned more than his fair share of glowing testimonials in the public vote: “He’s an inspiration for people inside and outside the company”, “he’s made some ballsy decisions” and “amazing foresight and strategy”, were just three of the comments.

Despite the praise, Handford admits that even he gets it wrong sometimes: like when he initially mistook the start of the financial crisis in 2008 for a half-term lull.

But out of adversity comes opportunity, and Handford cites the downturn as a source of inspiration for him to move into digital.

And ultimately it’s that entrepreneurial approach to business that secured the top slot.

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