With long-running trade printer Whirlwind Print entering liquidation yesterday, Australian Printer has spoken to CEO Andrew Cester on what is next for the company’s staff, machinery, and the trade printing market.
With the major pieces of machinery purchased by former rival CMYKhub prior to the liquidation, allowing Whirlwind to pay back some money owed to banks, liquidators will now go through the remaining pieces of the business to work out what can be sold to pay back creditors, and the Government, as staff will be applying to FEGS to get back any money owed.
Cester says the family-operated business was caught by surprise, first with the results of the Lindsay Yates merger, then a combination of technology failures, a cyber-attack and an overall downturn in business in the past six months.
In his words, “The Lindsay Yates merger was a disaster. We got left with the liabilities of the company, but did not retain the sales. It put us in a difficult position.
“It went horribly wrong. The last six months in particular were slow across the industry. As trade printers we get exposed to that.”
When asked by Australian Printer about potential criticism relating to the sale of equipment prior to entering liquidation, Cester responded, “We think we have done what makes sense considering our circumstance. My understanding is it is different for every business based on the circumstance. People (generally unqualified people) will judge not understanding, but I can not control that. We are working through all this with the liquidator."
Speaking on the difficulties of seeing a 23-year business go under, Cester says, “I have to take responsibility for it going wrong and I do.
It was gut-wrenching to get to that last day and have it all go away, it was awful. The worst part was it was sudden for the loyal staff that no longer had work. I would not blame them for feeling unhappy how it all unravelled, I wish I could change that. The staff did not deserve that ending. It was like all your effort to retain and develop good people completely back flipped.
"There were lots of tears, confusion and sudden good byes.
"Katie in HR is still on site to help any staff with any of their FEG claims. The liquidator has communicated staff will receive separation certificates and any other paper work by the end of the week. I have offered my mobile for references or just to talk.
"The company was known for supplying a great work environment. Fresh fruit, breads and spreads, coffee machines, BBQ’s, dress up days and even a fully equipped gym. The company awarded gifts and trophies for every five years of service.
"There are many wonderful employee stories. In the early years Whirlwind worked with the union to stop the deportation of a couple of printers who were wrongfully employed and poorly treated by another print company. The printers managed to secure full time employment with Whirlwind and keep their families in the country. Over 12 years later they are still with the company.
"The company also stopped another family being deported by lending them tens of thousands of dollars and allowing it to be paid back over the coming years. There were families that migrated to Australia based on employment with Whirlwind in Australia.
“It was the last thing we wanted after 23 years. I wish it could be different. You are basically letting everyone down, staff, suppliers, family the whole lot.
“It is also awful for the suppliers, I have had relationships with a lot of them for a long time. We’ve let them down too. It is not something we wanted to go through. No one would want to go through this.
“People do not understand how difficult it is to go through a process like this, unless they have been through it themselves. We have been a proud family, employed over 500 people over the years, and have been seen as an employer that genuinely tries to do great things for good staff. I hope the staff remember the 98 per cent of the time it was good and not the last 2 per cent.
“To all the customers and suppliers that have offered their genuine care, gratitude and support to the family and staff, the understanding they have shown, has been truly overwhelming. I want to thank them, as it has helped everyone a lot.”
Cester says he is taking time to consider what he wants before his next move.
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