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Interview With

Paul Stead

Brendan Perring speaks to head of Production Print sales at Smart Print, Paul Stead, about the company’s growth plans and the technology it will marshal for The Print Show 2017

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Paul Stead is head of sales at Smart Print

Smart Print: A force to be reckoned with

What was your journey that brought you into the print industry and your current position?

I have been in the UK print industry for 26 years now and started my career selling Sharp copiers, before moving on to work with Xerox, where I worked through their corporate careers programme and became product marketing manager for high-volume black and white, and continuous feed devices.
That experience gave me a grounded understanding of the challenges that face commercial printers in their day to day businesses, and what our best customers were doing that was allowing them to remain profitable and grow their business.

 I decided I wanted to get out of the corporate bubble and so I moved to work back on the front lines with a few technology suppliers before I became a shareholder at Smart Print nearly four years ago—concentrating on sales and long-term business growth.

Smart Print prides itself on getting the very most out of their print technology

I went to Smart Print and invested in the company because I had a real affinity with the team. In translation; we are all free thinking, creative, grey haired old duffers. And my 26 years’ in print makes me the least experienced in the team.

How has Smart Print evolved since it was founded?

The company was founded in 2003 by Richard Fyson and Ken Tyzack and it is characterised by being a fiercely independent, multi-branded reseller. We do not recommend you the machine that is right for our commission structure, we recommend the machine that will help a printer reach their long-term business objectives. You get an independent and impartial view of what the best technology is for your environment. The key brands we cater for are Ricoh, Xerox, and Develop/Konica Minolta for production printing, and EFI and Ricoh for wide-format print technology.

We recommend the machine that will help a printer reach their long-term business objectives

It has really come on leaps and bounds by expanding its portfolio of hardware, software, and printing consumables and building a strong customer base that grows year-on-year.

We are also a specialist in software and workflow solutions, which is the beating heart of any modern-day print business. Smart Print works with a number of partners, and Vpress is a good example of this. They have long been a highly respected player in the development of software solutions specifically for the commercial print sector and we are very proud to have helped businesses across the UK improve their profitability through the increase of productivity and decrease of inefficiencies.

What will be your strategic focus at The Print Show 2017?

While we are of course a multi-branded reseller, this year for The Print Show we have decided to focus 100 percent on Ricoh. This is because the segment of the business we wish to grow is around the immense potential for higher margin products that can be produced on its systems.

For example, we will be demonstrating applications such as printing double-sided onto SRA3 400gsm media, or its clever mechanisms for streamlining the production of A4 landscape brochures on the fly.  We also want to showcase the potential of using textured substrates and envelopes to make a print project really pop and increase its perceived value.

Another important area of focus will be on software that can extend the colour gamut of your digital printer by taking a CMYK profile and allowing it to cater for RGB profiles for both cut-sheet and wide-format.

Another clever application that will be demonstrated on the Ricoh C7100 with a fifth colour enabled will be how to produce metallic special effects. This type of capability is not easy to get right using a digital press, and for it to stay at a perfect quality across a longer-run, but the C7100 handles it without fuss.

The Ricoh Pro C9100 will sit pride of place on the Smart Print stand (G01) at The Print Show

Each of these real-world examples are part of a company ethos at Smart Print, where we really want to help our customers maximise their technology investment with us and get the very most out of their print system.

How do the systems you will have on show specifically help printers to make more profit?

Technology in itself is not important, and you might be surprised to hear me say that. The truth is, a salesperson for any one of the major manufacturers will always say they have the best machine on the planet. That of course can never be true in all cases.

The best machine is the one that is most appropriate to your print business and the specific set of challenges that it faces, as well as the specific set of products you cater for and the specialisms you focus on.

The best machine is the one that is most appropriate to your print business

I was with a customer recently who caters for a lot of litho print work. And he has the right idea. Digital is being used by him to enhance his business offering, not replace existing technology he has. There is no point in scrapping your litho press on the promise that digital printing can be all things to all men, it cannot. It is a fantastic production principal that can be bolted into a print business to allow them to cater for a specific product set more quickly, for lower cost, and consequently a higher margin.

What a printer today can achieve with our technology is being able to offer, where it is economical to do so, every product their customers may ask them for. Speciality business cards printed on a ultra-thick metallic media, ‘yes’. A long-run of bound corporate brochures, ‘yes’. An ultra-short run of restaurant menus, ‘yes’. The idea must always be to retain your customer base, and then get more through either direct sales or word of mouth, safe in the knowledge your technology base is strong enough that you can say ‘yes’ without needing to outsource—if at all possible.
A good digital press will drive page volumes to your offset press, it should complement it, not replace it.

In addition, our most successful customers are highly creative people that match that creativity with the correct technology. What they do not say is: “I need to buy a new digital press, how cheap is it?”

Key Company Stats
  • 2003 company founded
  • 5 key staff all with 26 years plus experience in print
  • 4,800 x 1,200 dpi printing
  • resolution of Ricoh Pro C9100
  • 110ppm speed (colour) of Ricoh Pro C9100

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