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Interview With

Sidney Bobb

Jo Golding talks to Sidney Bobb, chairman of the British Association for Print and Communication (BAPC), about its history and how he will discuss ‘what is next’ at The Print Show

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Sidney Bobb, chairman of the BAPC, was previously a director of a London-based on-demand printing company

Do not just survive, succeed

Can you tell me about the history of the BAPC?

By the mid-1970s, manufacturers of offset printing equipment and xerographic devices had produced machines that were smaller than in the past. Despite the reduction in size coupled with the amazing improvement in quality, printers could operate from high street premises with quicker turnaround times. This enabled work to be produced faster and at lower costs. Working from retail premises, print businesses could remove the mystique from print, making it easier for customers.

Various entrepreneurs, some from within the printing industry, others from completely different fields, opened premises and offered on-demand services. They faced many difficulties, some from the ‘establishment’ within the print industry and, perhaps more critically, from local authorities that were reticent about granting licences to operate print production from shops. A number of brave souls saw the need to join together to fight this prejudice and thus the BAPC was born.

It did not take long for those involved in this new association to realise that participants in this new industry need help, support, and a vast array of services to help them survive and succeed. It was realised that there is a specialist skill in running a print or creative business and over the years the BAPC has provided a collective wisdom. It helps with all manner of critical decisions from business planning, equipment purchasing, recruitment, mentoring, and customer services. Those involved in the BAPC are industry insiders who understand the kind of help and guidance needed ‘at the coalface’.

It did not take long for those involved in this new association to realise that participants in this new industry need help, support, and a vast array of services to help them survive and succeed


The services offered by the BAPC, in return for a modest membership fee of only £50 per year, are often free or are heavily subsidised and over the years the association has provided a wide range of facilities from financial, legal, health and safety, HR, marketing, and technical advice. Not forgetting arbitration and mentoring. The more the BAPC has grown, the more it has been able to offer members and we are always on the lookout for new facilities to help our members strive and survive.

We also provide assistance to suppliers so that they can better learn the requirements of print business and become more understanding of the issues facing their customers. The BAPC provides suppliers help with strategic planning, sales campaigns, and through our arbitration facilities help build bridges between suppliers and customers so that when, on the rare occasion, something goes wrong it can be rectified in a friendly, amicable way without having a negative impact on relationships. Indeed, as the tagline says, ‘one body for everybody’.

What is your own history in the print industry?

Following a career as an executive and director of institutions and public companies, I joined the industry in the mid-1980s. Having been involved in purchasing print, I realised the potential of the sector and, despite a lack of print technical knowledge, I was convinced that the sector had vast potential.

I was a director of a London-based on-demand printing company where we serviced all sorts of businesses. We specialised in servicing advertising agencies, property companies, and major retailers. We had a client list of blue-chip companies but I realised that with my lack of knowledge of the print industry I could only progress the business if I understood more. I heard about the BAPC and convinced my fellow directors to join. I was impressed with what the Association was trying to achieve but did believe that it could do even more.

Around this time, colour copiers were introduced into the market and we took the major step in investing in that technology. Again, being something new, there was a need to widen knowledge and to find out what other companies were attending to this new technology. We joined an organisation called the ACCC (The Association of Colour Copying Centres). Delegates met every two months to share views, and discuss technology and the industry in general. As digital facilities became available, it became even more important to keep abreast of not only technological developments but the changes in customer demands in the digital world. I was so impressed with the community spirit and the willingness to share that I joined the committee and eventually became its chairman, while still remaining a member of the BAPC.

Later the BAPC approached me to join their National Council and become its chairman; I have been rooted in that chair ever since.

What do you think are some of the key challenges facing the print industry currently?

This industry is made up mainly of many small companies who all face similar business challenges. Certainly, the BAPC does all it can to help its members face not only general issues but those matters peculiar to our industry. Rising costs, the complications associated with government legislation, and staff and employment matters all have an impact on the smooth running of any company.

However, two matters really do stand out. The first being dealing with and adapting to change. It seems that the sector has developed from being ‘blue collar’ to that of ‘white collar’. Change is not simply about the law, or technology but there are cultural changes taking place all the time. People now buy differently and have demands never before experienced in this industry. We do have to be able to handle this and be prepared for what happens tomorrow.

The other main key challenge is certainly training and personal development. Business is about people dealing with people and unless companies can develop their own people, they themselves cannot develop. It is not simply about training operators to be more proficient and while that is important, companies have to demonstrate that there is a future in this great industry and should take steps to help staff develop. Success in this area is a win-win situation and as I have often said today’s delivery boy could be tomorrow’s managing director.

Apprenticeships certainly help but there is a real need to cultivate everyone within the industry to ensure a bright future for us all.

You will be giving a talk at The Print Show in October. What will the focus be on?

Tony Kenton of It Has To Be Brilliant, and a past chairman of the BAPC, and I will be looking at what is next for the industry. We hope to look at the sector and discuss where we think the sector is going. There are so many things going on that will no doubt again bring major changes which will affect the way we work, what we do, and how we do it.

Tony Kenton of It Has To Be Brilliant, and a past chairman of the BAPC, will accompany Bobb in a talk at The Print Show on the future of the industry


We will peer into a ‘crystal ball’ and, with the help of the audience, examine the changes that have taken place and perhaps, more importantly envisage what is going to happen.

There are so many things going on that will no doubt again bring major changes which will affect the way we work, what we do, and how we do it


What does the future hold in store for the BAPC?

The BAPC will continue to provide as many services, help, and guidance as it can for the benefit of not only our members but the sector as a whole. Our vision is to enhance our community as much as possible so that all who participate can not only survive but succeed.

Can you tell me about the BAPC Awards and what they set out to achieve?

The BAPC has been acknowledging achievements since 1985 as we believe that good practice should not only be acknowledged, but inspire companies and individuals to reach the highest standards. It is a way to say, ‘well done’ to those who are nominated for an award and encourage them to keep up the good work. To this end, we look to everyone in the industry to not only put themselves forward but look at those businesses they admire and propose them for consideration.

The BAPC has been acknowledging achievements since 1985 as we believe that good practice should not only be acknowledged, but inspire companies and individuals


There are only a few awards handed out. First, we look for Business of the Year where a company has shown to be unique, or special and provides their customers with a remarkable service. To this end, we use a team of independent assessors to evaluate nominations.

At the BAPC’s 2016 awards, Saxoprint won ‘Business of the Year’, Vivid Laminating Technologies won ‘Supplier of the Year’, and It Has To Be Brilliant won ‘Environmental Printer of the Year’



We also like to acknowledge Supplier of the Year whereby we look for a supplier who really stands out from the rest. It is not just about products but the way in which it is marketed and how the company deals with its customers.

Sustainability is playing a more important part in the world today so we seek to find a company that is truly environmentally aware and demonstrates by its actions their beliefs.

The awards costs nothing to enter and while those nominated do receive a certificate acknowledging their achievements, we invite the winners to a private luncheon with the award sponsors.

The BAPC encourages everyone who is put forward for an accolade to market their success and help is available so that the word gets out to the widest possible audience.


Key Company Stats

  • The BAPC was originally formed in 1978
  • £50 per year for a BAPC membership
  • Bobb joined the industry in the mid-1980s
  • The BAPC Awards started in 1985






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