Our Managing Director is celebrating 20 years with Ruddocks. In that time, Paul has worked his way up from production overseer to Managing Director, seen dramatic and rapid technology change, navigated the business through a recession and developed a culture to support the future sustainability of the business.
We speak to Paul as he reflects on the last 2 decades.
Paul, tell us a bit about the start of your journey and what led you to Ruddocks.
I have worked in the design and print industry since leaving school. By my early twenties I was looking to learn new skills and broaden my horizons, and the role at Ruddocks presented a brand-new challenge and a fantastic opportunity to work under a very experienced, and soon to be retiring, Production Director.
Having grown up in Derby I knew of Ruddocks and the reputation for quality which preceeded the business. The company had a good client portfolio with a number of large accounts and very much aligned with the direction I wanted to take.
What have been the biggest/key changes you have seen?
Technology has driven massive change across the industry since the start of the nineties. By far the biggest changes for us have been around the processes and mechanisms of getting artwork to print. The introduction of image setting technology meant that digital artwork had replaced the slow process of creating physical artwork collages of the ‘paste up’ production days where getting to the print ready stage could take up to a week!
Quite quickly after this, during the mid-2000s, Computer to Plate (CTP) technology removed the need for the large flat-bed cameras which created images of the work to be printed by allowing digital artwork to be sent straight to printing plates, reducing the whole process down to about 2 hours!
Our printing presses have changed markedly over the last 20 years. With the decline in single colour print demand we have replaced all our smaller single, 2 and 4 colour lithographic presses with one 5 colour press, a significant investment of £900,000 in 2011; we produce as much today on one press as we did across the 6 machines we had previously. Digital technology advancements have further helped us drive efficiencies and effectiveness up through data handling capabilities, being able to offer faster turnarounds and shorter print runs together with the ability to personalise materials and create special finishes.
Another huge change for Ruddocks is the development of the Design team. The design work we were doing at the time I came to Ruddocks was predominately work for existing clients. Our now Creative Director joined the business in 2004 and the design studio was born. We began winning design work separately to print and in 2012 a high-profile brand project for Visit Lincoln gave us the opportunity and the platform to showcase our design capabilities, acting as the catalyst for the thriving design agency we have today.
2017 is a year that will be remembered by all of the Ruddocks team for many years to come following our enormous success at the Transform Awards Europe. We came away with 3 golds, 2 silvers and as winners of the overall Excellence in Branding award for our work creating and implementing the British Steel Brand. It was a very proud day for everyone.
How has all this change impacted on the people of Ruddocks?
Obviously, such change has impacted our workforce. Roles have evolved, and in many cases where there was once one single role multiple roles now exist within that skillset, but we have adapted to those changes and redeployed everyone, often in line with the development and progression of individual careers. For example, our Production Director joined Ruddocks as a Printer and our Sales Director started his career as a Platemaker.
We have spent a lot of time nurturing and developing an inclusive culture in line with our values. We have introduced a number of initiatives such as flexible working, regular staff breakfast briefings, fish and chip staff lunches, staff awards, and the emerging leader programme to help support and sustain the future of the business. Our staff have a better understanding of the business now, and the part they each play in making it a success, than they ever have.
What have been your personal highlights and challenges over the last 20 years?
I thrive on progression so for me to see how far we have come as a business is one of the biggest highlights for me. We have grown by 75% in 20 years, quite remarkable considering the economic climate changes we have all experienced during that time.
The recession hit Ruddocks in 2009 and speaking frankly, it was a heavy burden. I was newly appointed as MD and being faced with the task of guiding us through such turbulent and uncertain times was the biggest challenge of my career. I very much thrive on moving forward but at that time, like everyone else, we had to work hard simply to stand still. Backed by a team of good people and an exemplary reputation for quality and customer service we came out relatively unscathed and in a very good place to take on the opportunities of growth.
I am immensely proud that some of the customers we were working with 20 years ago we are still working with today. It speaks volumes about what we do, how hard we work and how nimble we have become at moving with the times. On the flip side, our client base has changed, we recognised the need to broaden our client spread and we’ve developed some solid relationships with some big brands including Macdonald Hotels, British Canoeing, The Scout Association and more recently Macmillan Cancer Support. We also moved to a focus on growth locally, as well as active support of the communities we work in. We are humbled to have supported some truly deserving local projects and initiatives, particularly those which encourage and champion the next generation. We have mentored and guided over 200 young people through the Young Enterprise Scheme, the EBP, and work experience placements.
I am also very proud of our staff, and I know they are equally proud to work for Ruddocks. They stay with us and they care, taking on the challenges we face and working to overcome them as one team. Our average staff tenure is 12 years and some of the workforce have been with us for over 40 years so we must be doing something right!
What do you most enjoy about your role at Ruddocks?
The diversity of my role means I am involved in every aspect of the business, so I speak to many of the staff on a daily basis which is hugely important to me. I also still input into some of our client work, which has definitely included some of the more unique and unusual, from the 90ft ‘View from St Hugh’ hoardings and lorry liveries to support the £2.5m turret restoration project for Lincoln Cathedral through to the design and production of event materials for the prestigious Arora Ball which raised over £1m for charity.
Being the figurehead of a successful business with a reputation for integrity fills me with immense pride, whether it is seeing a client, speaking at an event, a management team meeting, talking at a staff briefing, feedback from happy clients or even an informal conversation without my MD hat on.
I thrive on the buzz of winning new work and enjoy making the seemingly impossible, possible. I never take no for an answer!
What are you most excited about for the future of Ruddocks?
I am genuinely excited about the months and years ahead; the fantastic opportunities we are working with our clients on, the relationships we are building and the people who we may be working with. These prospects push and challenge us to grow and continually strive to be better.
The future landscape of Ruddocks looks very different, whilst in some ways still looks very much the same. We are true to our heritage and ethics as a family run business but planning for what is to come involves embracing change to secure our long-term sustainability. The structure of Ruddocks and our methods of working will continue to adapt. Succession planning is high on the agenda with further apprenticeships being explored and the continuation of the Ruddocks scholarship. For us, success will come from bringing people with new ideas into the business who will also fit with our values, to carry on the Ruddocks’ way and continue to build on our trusted reputation.
You can read more about Paul here.