Like a great many independent print company owners Theo Pettaras, owner of Digitalpress in Sydney, found himself working untold hours, getting home late, eating badly, and repeating endlessly. The 70 hour working week lifestyle was taking a toll, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor sleep and a growing waistline. However, unlike many of his peers, one day two years ago Theo decided enough was enough.
He enrolled in a weight loss program, took control of his nutrition and underwent what he calls a ‘person re-brand’. He saw immediate results within the first few weeks, he followed his new lifestyle vigorously with the results continuously coming.
After losing over 25kgs his blood pressure, cholesterol and other medical issues significantly improved. Having a competitive nature, Theo decided to train as a competitive natural body builder and recently completed his first season a few weeks ago. This proved successful for him, he took top honours achieving South Coast, NSW and Oceania champion in his age category Grand Masters (50 years plus).
But it is not just that the body transformation success has been physically beneficial, the whole experience has been mentally positive, and also positive for the business. Theo says, “Working 70 hours a week, feeling tired and stressed, I knew I had to do something about it, clearly it was unsustainable.
“I dug deep inside, big changes do not come easily, I followed a strict diet, I went to the gym religiously, it was painful, but the results were life changing. What really surprised me was the better I felt in my body, the better I felt mentally, and the better I felt mentally, the better I felt equipped to deal with the issues with my business. It gave me the confidence about my ability, and to run the business, and move it in a direction that would be sustainable.
“I looked closely at the business, without fear of making decisions. I looked at the market and considered where I could make a difference. We had many challenges including every printer’s nemesis – digital disruption. Having my physical fitness under control, thanks to my new regime, I began to feel on top of my business, I was able to step back and take an overview of where we were, how we had go there, where we wanted to be and how we could get there. Most important how could we remain relevant in our business.
“We set up Project Create within the company to bring in best practice, I went through the business plan and refined it from 32 pages down to six. We kept it basic but obtainable and relevant. We looked at everything – no stone was unturned – and spent a year on the project.”
At that time Theo asked Steven Edwards, former CEO of franchise group Snap, and former PIAA Board member to be his mentor. Theo says, “One of Steve’s key strategies is do not deviate from the plan, always stay focused, which is surprisingly not that hard once you instill that positive habit.
He emphasises keeping the focus clear. The same approach and attitude is used in his competitive body building, there are similar synergies to these strategies also in business. Both require a plan, strategy and focus to achieve goals.
“Today I have a business that is performing at its best level ever, it is more profitable with less people with the same turnover. We are now in a better position to be able to focus on servicing discerning clients who value our expertise. We feel we are now more effective all round with less waste in all areas of our business.“
The new regime has translated into a new work life balance, Theo now works a maximum of 45 hours a week. He says, “I do not work more than that, any longer I become ineffective, I stick to a strict discipline. I leave work with unread emails in my inbox, they will still be there the next morning and let’s face it I am not exactly saving lives.
“The whole experience has been a cathartic one. I have learnt a lot about myself and about people, I knew I had to make a decision, I made that decision, but I never imagined how beneficial it would be for the business, as well as me personally.”
As Theo, his business partner and wife Kassandra, and the whole team looked over the business they considered all options moving forward. He says, “We looked at what kind of a business we wanted to be, whether we should outsource everything, or conversely bring offset in-house. We looked at how we could best service the market, and realised that having an in-house digital print solution had to remain as an important part of our solution. Having always been an in-house digital printing manufacturer and our main production press supplied by the same vendor since we started we seriously looked at our options moving forward. After careful consideration it was decided we would amicably part ways with them, resulting in a blank canvas to work with at the start of 2018.”
Digitalpress spent many months going through the solutions available. Theo says, “The whole team here at Digitalpress were involved in the selection process. We looked at all the options that were presented to us and everything was considered. Fortunately for us the Iridesse from Fuji Xerox came onto the market around about that time. I saw the information on the Iridesse and on paper it looked standout, thanks to its ability to print six colours, including silver and gold, and with white and spot varnishing, there was nothing else to compare and I immediately saw many opportunities, if indeed it could do what I was led to understand it could.”
He continues, “The vendor was also important to us, as it is to all businesses, we are not just buying the equipment, we are buying the service, the back-up, the support, the R+D, the upgrades. We wanted a partner that we could rely on, that would be there for us, that would understand us and our needs. We see having a printer as like having a racing team, it is not just the car itself on the track that must succeed, it only succeeds by having a great team behind it, it is equally as important, and we felt we would have that with Fuji Xerox.”
The analysis was conducted in a careful considered manner with all the leading solutions, with Theo impressed by the vendors, he says, “There was no pressure, we had time to work at our own pace, it was a calculated process. However with the first demo with the Iridesse I was simply impressed beyond words. It produced beautiful print but with striking flexibility. I saw that the silver ink capability would open up many opportunities for us, which has proved to be the case. We have had the Iridesse up and running for a month now, and we have not had to wonder where it would sit for us, and where we would get jobs from. We have had clients ready for it from day one, we have been realising the opportunities immediately.”
“The mix and match flexibility opens up so many opportunities, it prints a great CMYK, but then we can have silver and gold printed at the same time or mix and match silver and varnish, or white and silver or any other combination.
“When you understand what the Iridesse can offer and the many opportunities, it becomes a compelling proposition, the versatility with these options enable us to print for many new applications. We are already looking at packaging and point of sale as new vertical market opportunities especially as it will print on stock up to 400gsm, and it prints the long sheet format size of up to 1,200mm ideal for banners and dust jackets.
“It also has virtually no cycle up time either, which is great for multiple short run jobs, as we are not waiting for long cycle up time between jobs. The installation and training process was easy and we now feel comfortable with it, we are still in the honeymoon phase and enjoying experimenting with it looking at new ways to do things. I would say it surprises us at least once a day, and I mean pleasant surprises.”
Theo says the price point is ‘fair’ for the Iridesse with what it can do and the markets it opens up. He says, “I believe that we will get to the point soon where end users will be familiar with the capabilities of the Iridesse. The solids are solid, the fine detail is of the finest detail, the colour reproduction is excellent, and the gold and silver bring so much to the print.
“There is a lot of competition for print, particularly from online, but done well print is unbeatable, it brings a value that online cannot get near, and the Iridesse with its six-colours, gold, silver, white and varnish makes that abundantly clear. Some of the jobs we have already completed for prestigious promotions look really impressive.”
Theo and the team at Digitalpress know all about impressive print, the company has just taken out 15 awards from the NSW PICAs, including their self-financed and self-published cookbook Dish, which saw 44 chefs at Sydney’s top restaurants provide recipes for the book, with all profits going to the Starlight Foundation for children. The company also won gold for its commemorative book for the victims’ families of the Martin Place siege, for the NSW Premier’s Office.
Theo says, “Now two years down the track from my decision to take back control of my life, the business is in a really good place, and primed to ramp up to the next level. We know what we can achieve and how we can do that. With the Iridesse we have the final piece of the jigsaw in place, we know how the clients will benefit and we know how to create recurring revenue.
“As graphic communication people we are here to promote print, we need to give the market the reasons to invest in print, we need to give the market compelling reasons to use print.
“Here at Digitalpress with the combination of the new Iridesse and our expertise we have what we need to provide that.”
The company has a strategy to get the message out to the market, with Theo engaging one Australia’s best designers, Mark Gowing from Formist. Mark is a world-renowned designer and only one of a select few members of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) with expertise in print design and book publishing. His agency Formist has been commissioned to produce a book that shows off the specific capabilities of the Iridesse. Theo says, “I want to be able to go to a client and show them what it is we can achieve, I know it will have a profound impact when they see for themselves. Mark’s expertise will be on point and meet our brief significantly.”
Theo intends to run a series of information workshops including his well-known ‘lunch and learn’ sessions. He will also be running information evenings for those wanting to learn more.
Looking at where the business is now Theo says, “I am no longer on that hamster wheel. After 30 years in business I have finally found my work life balance. We feel our only competitor is ourself, and as long as we always continue to improve the way we do things our business and clients can only continue to benefit.
“Our business is in a better place than it has ever been, and now with the Iridesse we are in a great position to drive the business forward to where we want it to go.”
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