New year predictions: Neil Lovell, The Printing Charity

PrintWeek Team
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Neil Lovell, recently-appointed chief executive of The Printing Charity (TPC), believes the sector should be working together to shout about its innovation and creativity.

What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?
I succumbed to my inner geek this year and bought a record player so I very much hope to have a number of old vinyls under the tree! Anything from classic jazz to early 80s will suit me just fine. 

What trend (business or technology) do you think 2016 will be remembered for?
Listening to people in the sector over the last few months it’s clear that the shift from transactional relationships, just taking print orders, to active problem-solving is happening at rapid speed. Those print businesses, large or small, who get that and are working directly with clients and the supply chain to deliver a complete solution for their customers will steal a march on those who take longer to adapt. Everyone knows how competitive the sector is so having the edge is going to be more important than ever. 

What do you think will represent the single biggest opportunity for printers in 2017 and why?
Confidence. The sector is often too hard on itself but when you see the innovation and talent within it there are few sectors that can match it. 

What do you think will represent the single biggest threat for printers in 2017 and why?
Uncertainty. It is never a good thing and this year’s seismic events have dealt the sector plenty of unknowns. However, I am a glass-half-full person and believe that even during uncertain times there is opportunity; just look at the positivity from Drupa, which I think will last into 2017 and beyond.

What’s the one thing that the industry should do more of, or do better, in 2017?
Succession planning and skills development are so important over the next decade. The sector needs to talk with one voice about how it is innovative and thriving. It’s not easy and we all have a responsibility to do it, but if we don’t put forward a compelling reason to be part of the sector to young people, and their parents, we will lose our ability to grow and innovate in the future. 

What was your biggest disappointment in 2016?
As well as our work in supporting education, a large part of what we do is at the sharper end of life, where people are in financial distress. Every year we help many hundreds of people; some need financial support and others just need someone to talk to. If I have any disappointment, it’s that these numbers are increasing. Loneliness and isolation are real issues for people who have worked in the sector. Life is uncertain for many. We are fortunate to be able to help, and with more support from the sector we will continue to do so. 

What was your highlight of 2016?
Seeing 50 Print Futures Awards' winners receive their awards at the House of Lords in July.  We are aiming higher in 2017 and particularly want more people from industry to apply when applications open in February. Future talent is the lifeblood of the sector and we are proud to help it flourish.

What are your hopes for 2017?
I would love to see the sector working together to shout about how innovative and creative it is. It’s one of the few sectors that touches pretty much every part of your day and life, both personally and professionally, and yet few people outside of it think of it as a place to develop your career. The sector needs a rebrand to really position it more positively in people’s thinking.  

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
When you get that nagging voice in your head about something you aren’t sure about, listen to it. It’s your instinct and it's there for a reason.

What was the most important thing that you learnt in 2016?
Print is alive. Yes, it’s hard to describe what it now means because it’s so broad in its reach and scale, but on the strength of businesses I have seen, people I have spoken to, and events such as Drupa, it’s very much alive and focused on the future. 

What if anything will you do differently in 2017?
I guess being open to challenge what we do and how we do it are important considerations for 2017 but equally it’s vital that we are consistent in what we do, particularly for those individuals who rely on us for support. Ultimately, we also need to make sure that whether we are working with people from the pre-digital age or the much heralded millennials, that we are accessible and relevant.   

What’s your favourite Christmas cracker joke?
No idea. They are all pretty unmemorable…

What was the best Christmas present you ever received?
As a kid it was probably my Raleigh bike. As an adult, I am still waiting to answer that…

Are you making any New Year's resolutions? If so, what?
Nothing that I will be able to stick to!

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