The People in Print: Steve Wenlock
Published: 1 September 2020 | No comments yet
Mr Wenlock with the Flexpress family
In this column Digital Printer learns more about the men and women working behind the scenes to make digital print great. We find out about them, their careers and their thoughts on the industry. This time it’s the turn of Flexpress’ Steve Wenlock.
Mr Wenlock founded Flexpress over 31 years ago, building the company into one of the best known and most respected printing companies in the Midlands.
Name: Steve Wenlock
Job title: Managing director
How did you end up working in the paper/print industry?
By accident really. In the late 1980s I was working with my father as a sewing machine mechanic repairing sewing machines in the declining boot and shoe industry but the industry was hit hard by the recession so I decided to use the 420sqft workshop we had to offer a key-cutting and photocopying service to the local community. The photocopying worked, the key-cutting didn’t, so I bought a bigger copier and a DTP system and it sort of took off from there.
What was your first job in the sector?
I guess I was straight in at the deep end and I had to learn a bit of everything fast; including using our first lithographic machine, a Hamada 500. I burned a few litres of midnight oil trying to get paper from one end of it to other, never mind add print in the middle!
What are your future goals?
To keep moving forward and enjoy the journey.
What is the biggest issue/challenge facing the industry?
The obvious answer is pricing at or below cost but the industry is doing that to itself. It’s our inability to sell print on anything other than price that’s the real problem. Print is a fantastic marketing tool but we struggle to demonstrate how and why to our clients so instead it just becomes commoditised.
What advice would you give to someone just entering the industry?
Don’t listen to the people who tell you print is dying. It’s challenging, yes, but also enthralling and anyway who wants a career that doesn’t challenge them?
What has been the biggest change since you entered print?
In 31 years, there have been quite a few: image-setters replacing cameras, then CTP replacing image-setters, fax machines and CDs coming and going, the massive growth of digital print, of course, but the biggest has to be mass adoption of the internet and the way people are able to shop.
If you could go back and seize one opportunity you missed, what would it be?
We were dabbling with online design and ordering before it was even a ‘thing’ but nobody seemed interested so we let it drop. Obviously we should have persevered but hey! Everything would be easy with the benefit of hindsight.
What one thing should the industry do to ensure its continued success?
The industry needs to become better at selling the virtues of print and that means printers becoming better marketers; not just for themselves but for their clients. If you can demonstrate return on investment to a client, you make the product hard to resist.
Do you belong to any industry bodies or trade organisations? Why?
Yes we belong to both the BPIF and IPIA. Both do excellent work but in different ways. We value the BPIF for their day to day assistance with thinks like HR, health and safety and training and the IPIA for the excellent work they do promoting print outside of the industry.
What do you enjoy most about working print?
I never get bored. There is always a new challenge: how do we break into this market? How can we best use this technology? How can we get everyone working to the same standards? How do we get rid of waste? How can we best meet the needs of our customer? And at the end of it a custom product you can hold, look at and appreciate. I love it!
Now that we are moving out of the lockdown period, how do you think the Coronavirus pandemic will impact digital print in the medium to long term?
Businesses will always need to market themselves, now more than ever. The pandemic has made the internet an even more competitive place to advertise and the average cost per click often now exceeds the cost of a mailing. Businesses wanting to reach clients will need to get smarter and that’s where print, in particular cleverly targeted digital print, can give them a real competitive advantage.
If you are interested in putting yourself for People in Print, please contact Charlie Kortens at Charlie.firstname.lastname@example.org