Solopress joint founders Aron Priest and Andy Smith have passed the reins to a former rival as the business looks to its next stage of growth following its acquisition by German web-to-print group Onlineprinters two years ago.
Simon Cooper, who described his new job as his “absolutely perfect role”, officially took charge as managing director of the Southend-on-Sea-based online print business yesterday (4 February).
“Aron and I had some conversations a while ago in terms of his long-term future, but really it's probably in the past month or so that Michael [Fries, chief executive of Onlineprinters Group] and myself began talking about the possibility of me joining,” said Cooper.
“It’s an exciting business; it was one of the first to make the move into e-commerce. Our platform, the actual online experience, has been carefully thought through. It's clearly very convenient for customers and ticks all the boxes. It’s an impressive brand and one I’ve long admired from afar and so I’m delighted to have this opportunity to step in and lend my weight to the task in hand.”
Having started his print career 25 years ago, Cooper has held a number of senior roles in the industry – most recently as managing director of one of Solopress's online rivals, Cimpress-owned Tradeprint, a role he stepped down from last summer.
Fries said: “With his experience in printing and e-commerce, his leadership skills and a strong entrepreneurial background, Simon will be key in developing and growing Solopress.”
Cooper takes over as Solopress managing director from Priest, who will stay with the business as an “active advisor” indefinitely to assist Cooper at a strategic level.
Smith, who co-founded Solopress with Priest in 2004, left the business just before Christmas to pursue other entrepreneurial opportunities. The pair sold the business to Onlineprinters Group in March 2017.
Under the new ownership the business has benefited from a multimillion-pound investment in kit, infrastructure and premises, with headcount rising by a third and sales increasing from just less than £21m in 2016 to £28.5m last year. The business now has the capacity to process 2,600 jobs a day. Last year it processed more than 480,000 jobs.
In his new advisory role, Priest said he would be supporting Cooper across a wide range of areas that have a strategic impact on the business to help drive the future growth of Solopress.
“Basically, I will have Simon’s back,” he said.
He added that while his ‘working time’ will be purely focused on Solopress, he would use the additional free time his new role affords to support the industry by becoming an advocate of print apprenticeships.
Patrick Piecha, Onlineprinters head of press and public relations, compared Priest’s new role to that of Onlineprinters founder Walter Meyer, who sits on the group’s advisory board.
“You can’t underestimate the massive knowledge founders have and the business intuition they have, and we don’t want to lose that, so we’re very happy that Aron is staying on board to help us further develop Solopress.”
Cooper said his first few weeks and months will be spent working closely with chief operating officer Kevin Seaden to develop his understanding of what Solopress does well, its management team, the structures, strategies and technologies they have in place and then help it continue its evolution from a standalone business to an integral part of a pan-European group and “leverage all the benefits that can offer us and our customers”.
“Over time I will look to change things, but I have a very open and collaborative [management] style, so I will make sure that the team are empowered, and we retain our customer-centric focus,” said Cooper.
“I want to build on the good parts and then gradually over time lend my influence to make some changes.”
Cooper said that while it was very early days, he believed that there would be areas of the business that would benefit from future further investment to expand product ranges or increase efficiencies, but he had an open mind as to what areas.
“It’s clear that we will continue to invest in the business to make sure that we continue to serve our customers’ needs.”