Remembering Geoff Selig, the man with ink in his veins

As we remember Geoff Selig, we reflect on his significant contribution to the print industry and his great achievements.

The following is an excerpt from his acceptance speech after being awarded the 2023 Industry Achievement Award at last year’s ProPrint Awards.

The ProPrint Industry Achievement Award honours someone with 25 years or more experience who has significantly contributed to the industry beyond their own business.

Carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, Oscar Selig, who started what is now IVE Group in 1921, Geoff was recognised at the awards for his vision in driving IVE Group to become Australia’s largest diversified marketing and print communications company.

“It’s an honour to receive this award this evening and to be here amongst peers and lots of wonderful people in what is as we all know, quite a challenging sector and a sector that over the last 20 years has undergone enormous change that we’ve all had to force ourselves to adapt to.

“This event has become a highlight in the calendar for all of us to come out and let our hair down and acknowledge not only people like myself and the Top 50, but more importantly, the last couple of years, acknowledging and encouraging the emerging 50 people who will be the next generation to carry our industry forward.

“The simple story is, my grandfather, like a lot of people, lied about his age to go and fight in the First World War in Belgium and when he came back from the war after winning a bravery medal and being shot, he decided he would start a newspaper in Balmain. And that’s what he did, in 1921 he started a newspaper in Balmain.

“He got married at 40, had a son (my father Gordon) and two daughters. He then had a stroke, so my father, by default, instead of being a pharmacist, went into the family printing business. In the late 1960s, my father got sick of selling advertising space for a newspaper and sold what was then the Link Newspaper to what is now the Cumberland Group and focused on commercial printing.

“Somehow by default, after doing finance and accounting degrees, my brother and I ended up in the family business and began the journey in the last 1990s of diversification. We realised that being just a sheet-fed printer – albeit we had a very, very good business – we were exposed to the digital revolution and felt that we needed to drive the diversification strategy and that’s what we have attempted to do over the last 20 plus years and it’s been an incredible journey.

“Listing on the ASX in December 2015 in many ways has been challenging, ever only having worked for a private family-business so going from that to chairing a publicly listed business and everything that goes with it for the last seven years, but it  has certainly provided access to capital for us to double our revenues to close to up to a billion and double our net profit over that same period. It’s been quite an extraordinary journey both challenging and rewarding all rolled into one.

“I think we got a quite few things wrong over the years, you never get everything right. I think what we have got right though is we tried to, in our diversification strategy, maintain the relevance of our offer that we take to market to what our customers actually want, and I think we’ve got that pretty right.

“We’ve always invested back into the business. We never wanted to be a in a position where we’re over geared, but we’ve put money back into the business to continue growing and investing in new things.

“Acquisitions have been an important part of the DNA of the business for a long, long time. We’ve just completed an acquisition. That’s the 44th acquisition in 20 years so it’s been an important part of our diversification and growth strategy.

“And the final point I’ll make would be, is that we have the most amazing people in our business. Dad used to say, you can’t buy discretionary effort. It’s a nice saying and I 100 per cent agree with him. We have a team of people that just walk over hot coals for clients and walk over hot coals for the company. It’s quite an extraordinary culture. We’re not a family-business anymore, but we have a lot of the characteristics that resemble what was a family-business all those years ago.

“It’s really pleasing for me to accept this award and acknowledgment this evening, and to be here among my work colleagues, like Matt and Cliff… many of whom I’ve worked with for a very long time. Once again thanks to Intermedia, Carmen, and the entire team that pull this event together – thank you and thank you for the award.”

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