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An interview with Gary Peeling – Precision Printing’s group CEO

For more than half a century, Precision Printing, based in north-east England, has been an innovator in the industry. But, how do you manage one of the top printing companies in the UK? Here to share his insider knowledge and advice on all things print is the firm’s group CEO, Gary Peeling.

How did your career begin?

My career began around three decades ago. In fact, my first job at Precision Printing was a teaboy!

What is a ‘normal’ day at Precision Printing?

Getting up early and planning my tasks is very important to me. Afterwards, I’ll walk the production floors to make sure that everything is running smoothly. This is better than any dashboard or report, as you can see what projects we’re on, which customers we’re busy with, and the types of products that are selling well.

Now, it’s time for reviewing our ecommerce channels to gauge profits. Often, I also use the quiet time to complete more complex cost and business proposals, analytical or planning work. Then, I check all of my emails and usually follow this with a few meetings — often, there’s one away from our premises and two or three conducted on our site.  I tend to finish work at about 6:30pm.

How do you describe your role as CEO?

My job is, fundamentally, to lead the executive team. In a normal week, I dedicate around 50% of my time to analysing and reviewing marketing, sales and business development. Aside from that, I spend about 20% of my time on operational efficiency, 15% on finance and 10% on HR and staff.

Can you tell us an industry secret?

An insider view of print that many people don’t know about could be the monetising of emerging technologies, which often includes printing and graphic arts. Good examples of this are e-commerce, digital photography and Apple Mac.

Who are your industry role models?

I keep an eye on many people in the print industry, and think it’s important to do so. However, one gentleman that I find particularly inspirational is Alon Bar Shany, HP Indigo’s general manager. He’s somebody I really admire. Alon Bar Shany ran a revolution in digital printing and managed a massive global business, yet still somehow makes time to meet and know most of his significant customers.

What do you get up to outside of working hours?

Being a demanding job, I don’t get to see my family as often as I’d like. So, anytime away from work is devoted to them. I also love cycling, travelling the world and listening to Billy Joel!

Can you give anyone wanting to go into print or work up to become a CEO any advice?

Creativity and fluidity are key in print. Believe it or not, every business slowly dies as soon as it launches. Also, don’t think that it’s ever too late or too complicated to do something — it rarely is.

Ability and eagerness to adapt are also critical. Print is versatile and dependent on new technologies, so being creative, marketing fresh ideas, and producing innovative products. If you can understand different business industries, print is going to be perfect for you.

Are there any major issues that the print industry is facing?

Even today, people have doubts about the credibility and longevity of digital printing and marketing. Dismissing the myths that print is obsolete is a large part of our sector now. Many believe that physical printing will be replaced with digital formats and this has resulted in reduced demand and margin pressure based on perceived value.

Are things improving for the print sector?

I can assure everyone that print is thriving. As digital marketing costs rise and the channels become busier, printing is starting to look like a remarkably good-value alternative.

And finally, ending on a positive note, what are your Precision Printing highlights?

Over the course of my long career, there are many, as you can imagine. However, firstly, I’d say sending out 50,000 orders in just one day was a massive achievement for us. Next, receiving the UK Print Company of the Year award in 2007 was a very proud moment. After these, I’ll never forget when I was selected to be Dscoop: Global Chairman, and was delighted when we launched our “Oneflow” software as a commercial business.

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