No print firm is too illustrious to fail

Darryl Danielli
Monday, May 19, 2014

There’s no doubt that for the 100 staff at Butler Tanner & Dennis, the news that its book printing business is set to close will have come as a devastating blow.

But it was also one that probably didn’t come as a massive surprise as the company’s impending and unwanted forced move drew closer, with no word on a new site.

But could it have been avoided? The simple answer is probably yes, if all that was really needed was a new site. But life is rarely simple and the complexities of the business meant that in all likelihood the problems were greater than just imminent homelessness. 

But that’s no consolation for the staff, because as this week’s briefing on the demise of the firm highlights, it’s not the first time they’ve been put through the wringer. In some respects though, the Mexican stand-off in 2008 between the then-owner Mike Dolan’s Media & Print Investments (MPI) and Unite that preceded its last fall was probably still the low point for many.

So can any lessons be learned from this latest crisis and almost certain closure? 

Under it’s most recent ownership, perhaps not. The owners clearly had the best of intentions, but ultimately time, money or perhaps just patience ran out.

Before that, under MPI’s tenure, the lessons were aplenty because neither MPI nor Unite really covered themselves in glory.

And before that – when things first went wrong – perhaps it was simply that the business was of a different time and place and had failed to evolve fast enough to the changing market.

And that’s something that all of us can take heed of, because no print business can afford to stand still, no matter how illustrious its history.

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