Launching another business during a lockdown might sound risky when your current business has been dealt a series of blows due to the global pandemic. But Paul Rowlett, CEO of Leicester-based digital printing company EverythingPrinted, did just that.
Delving into the B2C world as a means of offsetting his B2B business' troubles, Paul knows a thing or two about not backing down from a challenge. Here, in the latest instalment of Growth Stories, we discuss his new venture in more detail, as well as how he kept his existing business afloat in the current climate.
To begin, could you tell us a little about your business? Specifically, its history and how it has changed since you first launched?
I launched my new business venture, EverythingPrinted, during the local lockdown in Leicester. EverythingPrinted is a digital printing company that caters to a B2C market, and is a sister company to EverythingBranded – my existing B2B-focused printing business.
Our B2B business has been heavily affected throughout the pandemic, as the event, trade show, and hospitality sectors were shut down, which makes up over 50% of our business. This ultimately forced my decision to accelerate the launch of my new venture.
Growth is without question one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. What challenges did you face as a business leader, and what strategies did you employ to overcome them?
Having started my business journey without any real experience in building or running a proper business, I was obviously a very hands-on person. However, as the company grew and my business network expanded, I was spending time with more successful and experienced people – which was a great learning tool.
One thing that became very clear was that to grow a business you need to learn to delegate – something that was my hardest personal challenge early on. I found a nice way to approach this was by removing some of the more time-consuming hands-on tasks one by, such as sales, and then adding my first level of management, which really gave me a clear path to grow the business.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to grow: you must learn that downing tools and stepping back is sometimes the best way to go forward. The best person to grow a business is the one who is most passionate, and that person is you!
To what extent have external factors (like changing trends, the financial landscape) affected your business over time? And what can businesses do to future-proof against these kinds of peripheral shifts?
The biggest shift we have found is how quickly its digital marketing has changed. For example, having started my business using a traditional Google PPC model in 2010, there was roughly six or seven active competitors competing for the digital real estate.
However, fast forward to 2020, and we now have 25-30 competitors – so what can you do to keep the phone ringing? Well, you have two options.
Firstly, go to market and hire your own fresh digital marketing team, which could mean no returns for at least six months. Or, the next best thing is to embrace outsourcing, which is what we did in the early days.
When you're growing your business, it's very easy to miss out on the latest trends in marketing, and with the world going more digital by the day, this is an area that cannot be ignored. So having a great outsource partner to run the digital side is the most cost-effective way of keeping up to date of the changing world.
Trust me, playing catch up with your competitors when you start to see things going south can be much more painful than just building in a monthly cost for the professionals to keep you on point.
Following on from that, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business operations? What new areas of activity has it spurred within the organisation?
Back in March, my UK business was hit extremely hard, and we faced a very uncertain future. We had £611,000 of cancellations, our enquires dropped from 220-300 a day to less than 20 a day, and due to huge expansion into the USA over the prior two years – coupled with the market we are in – let’s just say we weren't top of the list to lend, so it was a very, very worrying time.
At the same time, I could see our biggest strength was a 150,000+ customer base. I could see customer demand was growing for COVID-19-secure products, so rather than buy from UK stock that was heading to zero, I moved immediately to secure two full plane loads of COVID-19-secure products to be flown into the UK rather than waiting for sea freight.
This fast action ultimately gave us the chance to keep the lights on as it was all presold and provided us with more opportunities.
The second opportunity was recognising our big weakness: relying on the B2B sector too heavily. So rather than just ride the crisis out, I decided to launch the B2C brand EverythingPrinted, which would provide a safety net for the slower B2B months, while also monetising our internal skill set with the launch of EverythingDigital and EverythingFulfilment.
Can you identify three lessons you’ve learnt in your time as a business leader? And how have they affected your own role as a manager and owner?
I've already mentioned the power of delegating, but it's also essential to understand the importance of having an entrepreneur’s mindset with the accountancy view. To put it quite bluntly, get a good FD or accountant as you might have the ideas to take over the world but without input from a great financial team, you might not see things come to fruition.
The third lesson is a bit of a tough one for me: it’s very rare to find anyone to employ who is as passionate for the business as you are. It took me a while to accept that, so if this is the case, make sure you don't lose sight of what you've built.
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Healthy business growth often relies on several factors. What facets of business would you say have promoted growth in your organisation the most? And what should SMEs look to improve/develop to maximise their chances of success?
The most important part of any growing business is your people. Without them you cannot grow sustainably, so for me, looking after them has always been a top priority.
This can come in many forms and, over time, we've realised that when you delve deeper into what your colleagues really want, it comes down to three main points: career progression, fair incentivised pay, and a great line manager who can listen. As such, these are three areas we continue to improve.
As far as what has promoted growth in our organisation, I'm proud of our consistent and regular 1-2-1s with management, making sure all departments are aware of the company wins and opportunities that could follow, along with making sure all colleagues share in incentives from the company’s successes.
What one piece of advice would you give you to other business leaders looking to grow their business?
If you’re in the early stages of growth, then always be self-critical of your strengths and weaknesses. When you have identified these weak areas, the fastest and most cost-effective way to grow in a sustained way is to embrace outsourcing! You can then free up more time and energy into your strengths, accelerating your growth plans.
We'd like to thank Paul for taking the time to chat with us. For more insight and advice tailored towards new companies, check out the rest of the Growth Stories series below:
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