Pictured; Frank Kelly, Managing Director, Lettertec and Selfpublishbooks.ie
Frank Kelly is Managing Director of Lettertec and Selfpublishbooks.ie, design & print specialists based in Cork, Ireland. They are independent company that see the creation of your book from start to finish. Established in 1983, the company has built up a highly skilled team of book designers, editors, printers and binders.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
My main priority is to lead the way in the delivery of our agreed strategy to grow our business. Ensuring that our plans are implemented and that each step we take is strategic, is crucial. As CEO, it is important that staff can look to me and be confident that we are meeting targets and moving forward.
Solidifying and maintaining our reputation as a high-end quality product company is also of paramount importance and filters into everything I do.
What are your biggest challenges as CEO?
Anticipating where the “puck” is going to be. In other words, anticipating and meeting the needs of our diverse range of customers and continuing to deliver a high-end quality product that will hold its own long into the future.
How do you keep your team/staff motivated?
By delivering on promises, and keeping them informed at all times as to the direction we are going in. Staff feedback is hugely important to us and we are always seeking the opinions of our team on new developments or indeed, on existing processes in order to improve efficiency.
What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?
Printing and especially book binding is a niche industry, with high cost barriers to entry. Modern machinery is extremely expensive but necessary to keep up, as well as maintain, productivity. We have invested heavily in recent year and we now have the most modern, productive bindery in the country.
One challenge we are trying to tackle head on is the lack of information on publishing. Writers and organisations are still going overseas for their publishing needs, on the false assumption that Ireland either doesn’t have the capacity to produce what they need, and/or Irish providers are not as cost effective as those overseas. It is our mission to dispel this myth.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
Digital printing has gained huge momentum over the past few years as it offers good quality and short run capability. This in turn opens the door to areas where we ourselves specialise, like self-publishing, and full colour yearbooks. In fact we have an online yearbook creator that allows students to create their own yearbooks online, which then simply creates a PDF for us to print. This eliminates expensive design charges and it can be worked on by the individual students anytime they go online. We have also transitioned from traditional print to designing and hosting websites and apps.
We are also seeing a real growth area emerging in the production of corporate (and even private family) histories. These are casebound (hardback) coffee table type books.
Writers and organisations are still going overseas for their publishing needs, on the false assumption that Ireland either doesn’t have the capacity to produce what they need, and/or Irish providers are not as cost effective as those overseas. It is our mission to dispel this myth.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
We would absolutely like to see more books being printed and produced in Ireland. We are a Guaranteed Irish company and we have the very latest machinery capable of producing 2,000 casebound books per hour. It is disappointing to see the amount of work being done abroad and the carbon footprint that this consequently entails. We are still not joining the dots as a nation.
As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?
We have very little staff turnover. Some of our team have been here for over 25 years, so thankfully I don’t have to go looking too often. Skilled operators, especially book binders, are always hard to come across. Modern work practices allow us to tap into specialist design skills to contribute wherever needed.
How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?
The general print business got hammered during the crisis. Firms started looking at their internal costs when revenue dried up, and this resulted in a race to the bottom price-wise. General print was not the place to be. We stuck with our strategy of only producing quality, high-end niche brochures and books, and it has paid off. There is always a market for quality. The economy has come back now, and more and more work is coming to us from designers.
How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
At present, because we only operate in the Republic, we have not experienced any impact. However, we will have to wait and see how it will affect paper supplies, etc. I actually believe it could present us with some opportunities – high end short run work previously going to the UK may come our way. I would expect design agencies to come knocking a bit more.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
For me personally, just being the best at what we do and ensuring that each product leaving the works has our stamp of quality on it. That is success. It is not measured in turnover and profit – these follow automatically if you are good at what you do. If we look at the top professional golfers – they don’t play for the money. They play for the titles, to be the number one, and to be held in esteem by their peers in the game.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
I have had a number of mentors down through the years, and I have read a lot of business books. There are some common threads that I firmly believe in, and would pass on to anyone coming up: Be true to yourself in business. Follow your gut instinct. Trust yourself. Take responsibility at all times. Never tell a lie – it betrays a weak character, and someone who cannot be trusted. Always ‘fess up – you will be admired for your honesty.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Last year was a big one in terms of further investment in our plant and machinery. We all worked together to improve production workflow. We have built a solid platform and created extra room to grow.
What’s next for your company?
Over the next 12 months we plan to shout about ourselves a bit more. Let people know we are here and what we can deliver. We are also looking to diversify into more niche areas that only we can develop and service.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
The target is to double the business in 3 years, with annual growth of 33%.