This article was first published in the November 2020 issue of AP
Susan Heaney has print in her blood – her father started his own business in print in the ‘70s after a career as both a print supplier and printer of newspapers – but she never intended to take over his business or imagined she would be where she is today.
Currently, Heaney is the managing director of Heaneys Performers in Print, Surfers Inkspot Printers and StylePrint, and she has attained her achievements through lots of hard work.
“I worked in both the electricity and travel industries for about 10 years and whilst I used to help my father out in his business occasionally when I was younger, my future dreams weren’t about printing. In fact, I never wanted to work in the family business,” she said.
“But in 1989, because – according to my father – I was ‘doing nothing’ even though I had a 16-month-old child and was running my own small business, he had asked me to help him. I was going to help him out for a couple of weeks and 31 years later I’m still here, now at the helm.
“Dad wanted me to come in and help him restructure the business. It was a hard time in the business community – interest rates were soaring in the late ‘80s and cash flow was stretched, so I suggested the introduction of business partners to help grow and stabilise the business. Two business partners were introduced over the next couple of years and in the meantime, I was still involved, having been tasked with looking after the company’s finances.”
Print may be in her blood, but Heaney noted that when she first joined the business, she required a new skill set, most of which was acquired through trial and error.
“I’ve always challenged myself to learn more and keep my skills relevant. This was what encouraged me to gain my diploma in business management and later do a Trustee Directors Course, just to make sure what I was doing was current practise,” she said.
“As technology changed, I have also attended tradeshows in Australia and abroad and discussed business strategies with interstate and international colleagues to continue to strengthen and grow the business.”
By the late ‘90s, with a number of stakeholders in the business, Susan felt a need for change.
“I told dad that one of us had to leave the business because it couldn’t continue running with multiple competing interests. I did that thinking very well that I would be the one to go. But he told me to buy him out,” she said.
“So, I doubled down on my time in the business and invested my money too. In 2004, myself and another business partner bought the remaining partner out, and by 2009 I was the sole owner, having bought the final partner out,” she said.
Besides her day job, Heaney has spent many years heavily involved in the industry at large. She was nominated and then invited to join industry body in 2002 – first the Print Industry Association in Queensland, then in 2012 she became the first woman president of Printing Industries Association Australia (now PVCA).
But her involvement didn’t stop there. She was also on the PrintEx board and PacPrint boards throughout this period, a director on a superannuation board in the late ‘90s, and a founder of Women in Print in 2006.
“Currently, I am the Queensland patron and chair for the newly re-homed Women in Print organisation. I have also recently stepped up to the role of chairperson at Media Super,” she added.
Being a part of these organisations is, and has been, a great learning opportunity for Heaney.
“For me, it’s always been about personal growth and continual improvement. I have always been an advocate for print and have always felt compelled to give back to the larger industry. Being able to help women prosper in this male-dominated industry has been a product of that advocacy. It has been great to see how much benefit Women in Print has brought to so many ladies and the companies they work in or own,” she said.
“Women need an environment where they feel comfortable learning, but it’s also about having a community that develops networks that benefit them by providing them with support. It has helped women stand up and make change for the better, to grow their own networks.”
She also mentioned that the industry is much more accepting of women in the trade.
“Since the level of women’s education has increased, so too has the number of women in the industry. It may still be a male-dominated industry but that is shifting; the number of women taking up print as a career has certainly increased during my time in the industry. Not only that, they are leaders in their fields,” she said.
“I want to pass on my commitment to personal growth to those who I mentor; I try and develop this trait with other women in the industry and with my daughter as well.”
All in all, Heaney is a self-made leader. While she may have aimed for personal growth, she has actually overseen and inspired growth across the industry.
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