Carly Press is a third-generation family-run general commercial printer running a mix of cut-sheet colour digital and roll-fed wide-format print equipment based in Wellington, Somerset.
The company is run by managing director Mark Gladstone-Smith, the grandson of the founders, who established the business in 1982. Although his grandparents have retired his parents remain involved with his dad running the wide-format side of the business, while his mum looks after the accounts. Also involved part-time is his sister Carly, after whom the firm was named.
“It’s down to being a family-run business that we are so successful,” says Gladstone-Smith. “If it’s for your family you always put more in; and we feel the rest of the staff are an extension of the family too.”
It’s a growing family too, in two different ways, a fourth generation is not yet out of nappies, while last month the business acquired another local firm, Taunton-based Colourtone, almost doubling headcount to 27.
While taking on Colourtone, which retains its separate location and identity, has provided a significant boost to sales, the firm is no stranger to rapid growth, although to date that has been organic, and largely down to focusing on what it’s doing and what customers want.
Clients cover a mix of local and national accounts, with sectors including automotive, care homes, property developers and some trade work.
Last summer it invested in a Coreprint Pro web-to-print (W2P) system from Cheltenham-based Vpress. W2P had been on the firm’s radar for a while but until a couple of years ago, it had never made it to the top of its investment agenda.
“We were growing so fast that it wasn’t the right time before, I had too many plates spinning already,” he says.
That changed, when having spoken to customers about what W2P could bring to them, he got overwhelmignly positive feedback.
“When we spoke to clients about it, the concept sold itself to them before we’d even started to talk to potential suppliers.”
So, he went off and spoke to most of the usual suspects in W2P, before settling on Vpress. There were a number of reasons that eventually swung it.
“Vpress put a lot of energy into selling it to us,” he says. “And I like them because they are open to the idea of development builds – they’re willing to grow the platform with you, albeit at a cost.”
That said, one advantage it offered over the other vendors was lower up front capital expenditure.
“We were cautious, if you put in expensive software it’s intangible, and if you make a mistake, that money has gone, there’s no resale value,” he says, explaining why he was wary of spending too much up front, and why it took 15 months from beginning to look seriously at W2P and placing an order in the summer of 2018.
Another reason that swung it for Vpress: it’s relative closeness, just up the M5.
“It’s not a million miles from us, so we can go and see them for training and for updates, even though we also do a lot remotely via webex.”
Location may seem like a moot point for a cloud-based system that offers online transactions, but Gladstone-Smith sees the system as a way to make existing client’s lives easier, and many of those are local, so place and personal service remain key.
“We’re a local business and our online offering makes sure the customer remains number one. Clients don’t have to use W2P, but if they do sign up we make sure they use it. We decided not to charge for it as we didn’t want to put up a road block, and we fix contract prices for 12 months. They can always still call up or pop in.”
As a cloud-based software-as-a-service system the firm didn’t need to do anything physically to prepare for the installation but it did need to learn how to use it, how to help clients use it and to integrate it with other parts of the business, most importantly its MIS.
Things got off to a slow start, with identifying the right customers to begin with a challenge, and then creating and uploading their templates a time consuming process.
“We can build a storefront in 20 minutes, it’s creating the templates and the variable items that takes time.”
However, he puts a lot of that down to it being early days and it taking the team a while to learn their way around, and a couple of inevitable missteps along the way on Carly Press’ part.
“There’s so much to take in. We sent all the designers for training and then didn’t put anything on the system for a couple of months, and if you leave it that long there’s bound to be a problem.”
So they needed to get the training again, and then to keep using the system to get on top of it.
Fortunately he has taken the long view and is taking a phased approach to implementing W2P. One part of that is the integration with the firm’s Printlogic MIS. He says: “We use Printlogic because it’s quick and enabled us to create hundreds of quotes per day. At the moment what we’re doing is web-to-order rather than web-to-print [because CorePrint Pro isn’t fully integrated yet].
“For me web-to-print would be when the jobs are dropped onto the press with a job ticket with no operator intervention, so in that respect we’re not using it to its full potential yet. But when we feel we’re out of the woods we’ll get the guys at Vpress to cut out all the manual file handling.”
Streamling getting the order is not to be sniffed at as a benefit for the firm and its customers.
“It’s about reducing the administration, especially for smaller orders, which if you don’t do you end up losing money on. If an account manager is entering orders then their time is being wasted, this way they can focus on the customer. It has cut our admin and order processing costs by a factor of five.”
It has also made things much easier for clients, and ensures that they can keep their collateral on brand and in budget.
The system is also responsive enough to work on users’ phones, so they can order jobs whenever they like and wherever they are, making ordering as easy as possible.
“It makes the client more sticky. If they can order 24/7 it takes a lot to lose them and gives us something over the guy down the road. It’s a win-win.”
One potential area of growth he sees is clients’ very short-run work currently produced on their office printers because the time and hassle of creating an order are seen as too onerous to be worth sending out. Often these are also ‘designed’ at the point of need, so don’t adhere to brand guidelines. Using signed off templates in Coreprint Pro saves users time creating the job and ensures it’s on brand. Another, which the firm is currently exploring with some customers and other suppliers, is using the system as a broader procurement tool for items such as branded workwear.
“If we can offer a one-stop site for a client’s procurement it’s great for us and for them and their existing suppliers.”
Since the installation the firm has ramped up its W2P offering. This includes taking on Coreprint Pro’s Elements module, which allows clients much more editability of their jobs online, including the ability to see how that effects the pricing.
“It’s like some of the big online printers offer, but more personal,” he says.
Currently W2P is targeted at existing customers using bespoke sites branded to them. The firm is planning to target the B2C market using a Woo Commerce plugin to WordPress, a new development from Vpress.
“Offering websites focused on different products could be really powerful,” he says.
But for now there are plenty of existing clients to get onboard, and one benefit of Vpress’ offering is that as more companies come on board and as they add more of their jobs to the system, there are no additional fees to pay apart from the charge for each order processed through the system.
A portion of the firm’s work that is more bespoke, which he doesn’t believe is suitable for W2P, also benefits as W2P takes care of the more day-to-day jobs freeing the team up to focus on it.
While it’s too soon for Gladstone-Smith to put any firm financials on W2P, he’s in no doubt it is an overall benefit and should prove a further spur to future sales: “We’ve had calls from prospects because a client has extolled the system’s virtues. It’s probably the best software I’ve ever bought in terms of helping to grow the business.”
In other words, a very welcome addition to the family.
Type Cloud-based software as a service web-to-print system with modules including RFQ, Variable Data Printing, MIS integration and APIs. Unlimited storefronts and templates
Price Upfront cost from £5,500. Standard configuration £7,500. Ongoing costs either per transaction or a monthly fee
Contact Vpress 01242 246970 www.vpress.com
Carly Press is a third-generation family-run general commercial printer based in Wellington, Somerset. The firm is run by managing director Mark Gladstone-Smith, the grandson of the founders, who established the business in 1982. Last month the business acquired another local firm, Taunton-based Colourtone, almost doubling headcount to 27. Clients cover a mix of local and national accounts, with sectors including automotive, care homes, property developers and some trade work.
Why it was bought...
Asking customers about what W2P could bring to them resulted in overwhelmignly positive feedback.
“The concept sold itself to them before we’d even started to talk to potential suppliers,” says Gladstone-Smith.
How is has performed...
“It has cut our admin and order processing costs by a factor of five. It makes the client more sticky… and gives us something over the guy down the road. We’ve had calls from prospects because a client has extolled the virtues. It’s probably the best software I’ve ever bought in terms of helping to grow the business.”