Keeping it all in the family at Scott Print

Family businesses have long been the cornerstone of the printing industry. In an age when a growing number of corporate owners are playing a role in the changing shape of the sector, old hands will be pleased to know that family firms can remain relevant with fresh ideas while staying true to their roots. 

For Scott Print, the family ethos extends from the founders’ surname above the door all the way through the management team. There are four Scotts on the management team – two fathers and two sons. At a time when plenty of ageing print shop owners identify succession planning as a looming problem, this Perth company looks to have it all worked out. 

The blueprint for a handover was more happy coincidence than long-held strategy. The two men coming through as the firm’s future leaders – Tim Scott, 32, son of co-founder and current managing director Dudley, and John, 36, son of Dudley’s brother, Mike never held any ambitions of entering the family business. 

John says that he always saw himself in business, but was the “least interested” of any of his siblings in joining the printing game. Ask Tim if he initially envisaged himself on the management team at Scott Print, and he shakes his head.

The company was founded by Dudley and Mike over 30 years ago. Their print connection goes back to their own father, who established Service Print in Perth in 1930. After he sold off and retired, the two brothers went their separate ways, but in a turn of events that would be echoed by their owns sons, Dudley and Mike found themselves back in the industry through Dudley’s acquisition of Peter Neale Printing in 1979, the year Tim was born.

Under a somewhat unusual ‘co-managing director’ structure, Dudley and Mike grew the business to become one of the pre-eminent printers on the west coast. Thanks to regular appearances at the National Print awards, the firm is also well known on the eastern seaboard. 

Today the company is housed in a clean, modern 4,000m2 factory a stone’s throw from the shimmering glass and steel CBD of the booming west coast capital. The offices are set on a mezzanine above the factory floor, with full-length windows overlooking production. The layout unites management and pressroom. Dudley says open lines of communication from top to bottom are central to the business’ success. 

You might not willingly eat your breakfast off any pressroom floor, but if you had to, Scott Print would make a smart choice. It is said the team scrubs down the plant every night; looking at the spotless produc-tion space, it’s easy to believe. Dudley says a lot of people comment on the cleanliness. 

“We spend a lot of money making it look clean. We sell off the factory floor. We are not scared to show clients the factory. We had Heidelberg came over and say this is one of the best sites in Australia.”

When it comes to production, X marks the spot at Scott Print. In the high-ceilinged offset hall, three late-model XL 105s sit side-by-side. Scott Print was the first company in Australia to invest in Heidelberg’s flagships after their local launch in 2004. In its digital department, a trio of Xerox machines quietly hum, a symbol of the company’s future.

Management not machines

“We’ve had strong growth in the digital area. The business has definitely grown since the GFC and we’re on solid found-ations,” says John, who along with his cousin is excited about where these modern digital presses will take the 30-year-old company. 

“Just don’t ask us to run one,” he laughs. While there’s plenty for a machinery enthusiast to admire, neither Tim nor John are particularly enamoured with kit for kit’s sake. After a lifetime spent against a backdrop of printing equipment, it’s a safe bet that both the Scott boys are more familiar with technology than they let on, but both explain that they are not production people. 

“We’re here on a management level,” says Tim. “We’ve got guys who will present the latest stuff to us and if we like the look of it, we will get them to pursue and do their research and come back to us.”

“As long as the stuff coming out is good quality,” says John. “The Xerox equipment has been fantastic.”

Tim speaks with some pride during a tour of the bindery, which he claims is one of the most well-equipped finishing depart-ments in Perth. Scott Print operates some less typical gear such as a huge Billhoefer celloglazer and an old Han Muller machine for stitching short-run work. This sits alongside the typical medley of guillotines, folders and binders – with plenty from its from preferred supplier Heidelberg.

As he walks the floor, Tim doesn’t only point out the brand connection across its grey fleet of German-made printing and finishing equipment but the family connection of Scott Print’s workforce. The Scotts aren’t the only multi-generational family at work in Perth plant.

“We have situation where we have half of someone’s family working here. For example, someone working in the warehouse, someone working in the bindery and someone in estimating, all from one family,” says John.

In fact, there are at least three other families working at Scott Print – a husband, wife and daughter, another husband and wife team, a father and son. The family feel accounts for the loyalty among the team, adds Tim. “We have quite a lot of staff who have been here for 18 years or more. We had a business review last year and they said our staff turnover was incredible in terms of how low it was.”

Ironically though, two family members who never expected to end up working at Scott Print were John and Tim themselves. 

There’s an easy back and forth between the two. As boys, the cousins had been relatively close. They went to the same school, albeit in different grades. They spent every Christmas together, and were in the same rowing team. They both did their share of odd jobs around the family business, but as they got older, they went in different directions. 

John in particular had fallen far from the tree. He graduated in law, and spent 10 years building up a successful career as a corporate lawyer. The thing that changed his momentum and brought him to Scott Print was, unsurprisingly, family. 

“I was living in Sydney and had three children under three years of age. We had identical twin boys. That was the catalyst for heading back to Perth. And my old man wanted to retire, so I came back for family reasons. Mike said there was an opportunity and I thought I’d give it a crack.”

He had spent time knocking around the plant in his youth. “I did a bit of packing boxes on school holidays but never worked here, except causally when I was younger.” 

John never expected to join the family business, but since coming on board three years ago, he is “here for the long run”.

Go your own way

Tim, didn’t go as far as Sydney, but he also carved out his own path before deciding to enter the family business eight years ago. He has a degree in environmental science from the University of Western Australia and his first job after graduating was at the Department of Environment. 

The printing influence was there from the beginning, thanks to some help from Paul Nieuwhof, Western Australia state manager for the Printing Industries Association of Australia.

“My first job was setting up the Green Stamp certification for the WA printing industry,” says Tim. “I was involved in that for 18 months or two years.”

Tim had been applying for jobs in the environmental field. “Paul Nieuwhof from the Perth office was actually chatting to the Department of Environment about doing a certification, and they needed someone, and it all made sense.”

As a kid, Tim was at the plant “all the time”, grabbing highlighters from the office and making paper airplanes on the weekend. But despite his background, he says there was never a plan to join Scott Print. It just happened that in his role with Green Stamp, he was in and out of printing companies, “and I was coming here quite a bit and thought it looked like fun”. That was 2004; he’s been there ever since. 

The cousins have come from different angles to settle in the same business. That’s not all they share. “We’re both mad keen surfers,” says Tim. Outside of running the business, their lives are both devoted to “family and surfing”, he adds.

They travel overseas every year on to surf and rate the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia as a favourite place to catch some breaks. But Tim points out that you won’t see one dropping in on the other’s wave – one has to stay back and hold down the fort at Scott Print whenever the other is on leave.

Tim and John are both on the management team, but their fathers haven’t quite let go of the reins. Dudley is managing director, though he has ambitions to relinquish the role by next March. His brother, Mike, while semi-retired, still has an office and is a regular fixture around the place. It’s unlikely that will ever change completely.

“I think my old man will always come in. That’s the thing about having a family business: he can come in. You don’t have to retire when you own a family business,” says John, likening the Scott dynasty to the Greek and Italian families in the city, such as Perth institution the Kakulas brothers. 

“It’s a cultural thing in a family business. It’s not like the corporate world where you hit 60 and retire. But at the same time, we have to keep them in check a bit – they still go 100 miles an hour,” he adds.

Tim says: “We push back a little bit sometimes. They let us make all of the decisions, with their advice and guidance. It’s a great relationship.”

Both Tim and John bring their own talents into the business. Scott Print has some of the highest environmental credentials of any business in Perth. The company was certified to international standard ISO 14001 in 2007 and also has Green Stamp level 3. Scott Print has even devised its own badge, Process Green, which customers can use to shout about the environmental properties of their work. 

“We were definitely frontrunners,” says Tim. Attaining ISO 14001 has improved the ways things are run. “It has helped with efficiencies. When you do different stats on the environmental impact and your waste, you see there are areas where you can improve, so it has been really beneficial for us to go down that path.”

Likewise, John has applied his own skillset. “I feel I have definitely brought that corporate feel to the business.”

“And corporate clients,” chimes in Tim. 

John agrees. “Yes, corporate clients feel very comfortable coming to us, because A, we already had a strong brand, and B, we can offer the whole end-to-end solution for corporates in Perth and around Australia, and even overseas. We are often the preferred printer in Perth for financial printing. When you offer the whole solution, you take the work off their hands and it is a point of difference.”

For example, Scott Print did a lot of work for the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Govern-ment Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth. 

Online offerings

The company has a robust online offering. It recently established My Online Printer,
a web-to-print portal aimed at smaller clients to order anything from business stationery to promotional work such as banner and posters. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Scott Print celebrated a major coup when it became the exclusive local partner for RR Donnelley’s ‘virtual data room’. The service, called ‘Venue’, is aimed at large corporates who can outsource scanning and archiving of documents, such as financial results or merger and acquisition paperwork.

Both these online services, aimed at print buyers of almost diametrically opposite sizes, should feed work into the offset and digital press fleet while diversifying the company’s revenue streams, a necessary strategy in such a tough market.

Printers on the east coast might scoff at the idea that companies in Perth have it tough. After all, aren’t all the businesses in Western Australia riding the wave of the mining industry? 

Tim concedes there is work from mining clients, typically centred on corporate activity, such as takeover documents.

“There is definitely a two-speed economy. We do get a lot of work for mining companies but we also have lots of customers really tightening their belts,” says John.

John echoes the sentiments of many printers that the boom has been as much a burden as a benefit. Over the past five years, many print firms have struggled with staff retention as workers are lured to six-figure pay packets on offer in the resources sector. 

But Scott Print’s family values have once again been its ace in the hole. Managem-ent are putting emphasis into training and incentive schemes to ensure they remain an employer of choice.

“We are doing the government-funded lean manufacturing training program with about a third of our staff. Within that, offering them free training, and they get a Cert 3 in competitive manufacturing.”

They are also doing small but thoughtful things like putting in bike racks, showers and change rooms for health-conscious workers, as well as a weekly fruit delivery for staff and a monthly team lunch. 

It is still early days for many of these plans. The same goes for another strategy, one that applies directly to John and Tim. The two cousins and their fathers are in the process of considering the best management structure for the future. There is a wealth of experience and skills at the top of the business. How these are best placed in a more formal way is currently being discussed, but Dudley says he expects that the unusual co-managing director structure that worked so well for Mike and himself will also work for their sons. 

It helps that John and Tim have complementary skills. They have naturally fallen into roles that suit their education – Tim looking after the environmental side and John focusing on policies and HR – while they both also look after sales. 

But however it works out, one thing is eminently clear. Where many other printers are wrestling with a lack of a clear succession plan, here the foursome of Tim and John and founders Dudley and Mike Scott will do their best to break new ground while keeping it all in the family. 




Tim Scott

Born: 1979, Perth

Family: Wife Alex and one baby boy, Theo

Education: High school: Aquinas College 1996; University of Western Australia, Bachelor
of Environmental Science, 2001

Career history: 2004-present: Scott Print; 2002-04: Department of the Environment 

John Scott

Born: 1976, Perth

Family: Wife and three children: one daughter and identical twin boys

Education: Bachelor of Law, Masters of Law 

Career history: 2009-current: Scott Print; 1999-2009: corporate lawyer, various employers in Perth, London, Sydney



Dudley Scott on…

Communication with production

It is fairly important to walk the floor, a bit like the old-fashioned retailers. The Myers used to walk their floors and get the pulse of the business. It is an old habit but I still walk through the factory in the morning to get the pulse. You can judge if something is going a bit slow or not working the way that it should.

John and Tim’s roles

They both offer skills that are complementary to one another. You wouldn’t want two lawyers in one building! They are diverse and have their own strengths and weaknesses.  

Keeping the plant clean

We are not scared to show clients the factory. No one will walk away with ink all over their shoes.

Sharing the top job

Mike and I have always been joint managing directors. People are often surprised at that sort of title, but it worked well for us.

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