Not sour grapes

First things first – before you read this you should know that I applied to fill one of the vacant PIAA Board positions and, obviously, was not successful.

I applied because I think I have something to contribute and could bring a perspective to the Board that is currently missing. I have also had a lot to say about the PIAA over the last few months and I generally believe you should put your money where your mouth is.

I am disappointed I was not selected sure – but to lose the NSW slot to the CEO of Blue Star is surely an honourable defeat. The good news is I cannot disagree with any of the Board’s selections.

Two of the four new Board members represent the country’s biggest printers and that is great – if Blue Star and IPMG are willing to commit to the PIAA then they should be on the Board.

Blue Star should be applauded for lending out someone as important to them as CEO Matt Aitken. Given the recent float and regular acquisitions and the pressures of running a listed company I am sure he is a busy man.

IPMG deserve praise for thinking creatively and getting someone from outside their organisation to represent them. And while it is a shame it needs to be said in 2016, they should also get points for being the only company on the Board to be represented by a woman, that being Kellie Northwood.

Scott Print’s John Scott will bring some much needed legal expertise, and it will be good to have someone like Walter Kuhn representing packaging.

Individually they are all great choices. But collectively, is there an issue?

The PIAA Board is now made up almost entirely of the big end of town. When you have a squiz at the companies of each of the current Board members, the one thing they have in common is their size.

It goes without saying Blue Star and IPMG are huge, but Graeme Jamieson’s Picton Press boasts a KBA Rapida 106 and Peter Lane’s Lane Print Group sits in an 8000sqm factory. Scott Print has a fleet of huge Komoris, and Kuhncorp is also a sizeable concern.

Chris Segaert’s Permanent Press is admirably humble online so we can only guess at how big the company is.

Aside from the press-less consultant and president Kieran May, the only Board member who could conceivably be called a small printer is Craig Pearce from Flying Colours in Tasmania, listing an SM52-4P on his site.

You can argue that bigger printers are better than smaller ones and therefore more qualified to sit on the Board. And there is some merit in that argument – size usually indicates a certain level of success and a more successful printer might have more of a clue as to how to lead the industry than some of the lunkheads around the traps. But that argument ignores the fact that there are many smaller printers happily turning healthy profits on smaller turnovers without any desire to re-mortgage their houses for the benefit of a press manufacturer. Not everyone wants to be owned by a long perfector.

Small shops have different issues to the big shows and to me their absence highlights an issue with the structure of the PIAA Board. It is too small and because of this, can never be truly representative.

My solution? Two Board slots in each state – one slot for companies with more than 30 or so employees and one for companies with fewer. That way we would get a guaranteed cross section of businesses and all views could conceivably be represented.

Now I realise everything I have said could be interpreted as sour grapes and I am prepared to wear that. It is not particularly edifying to see an unsuccessful Board candidate critiquing the Board that rejected him, but my failure as a Board candidate has not quelled my desire to see the industry push forward.

To do that we need a strong and accountable PIAA. Columns like this one, modest as it is, have a continuing role to play in holding them to account. As one of the few people writing on Australian print I can’t keep my mouth shut out of a fear of looking like a poor loser. I tried, I failed, and now, just like the PIAA Board, I have to do my job. And I’m looking forward to it.

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