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#ComeBackStronger: proactivity led to successfully surviving a global pandemic

This week we connected with Mark Bateson, UK-based investor, entrepreneur, non-exec director of Refresh and chairman of leading supplier of technical media materials to the printing industry, Vuflex, about what he’s been doing to #ComeBackStronger post-pandemic.

Mark has been a prominent figure in the print media space for some time, evolving in recent years to embrace the digital world and transform his business. Here’s what he had to say about everything from accelerating growth in the current climate, key learnings from the last few months and managing work/life balance in a rapidly changing environment.

How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate?

The pandemic really has given us a great opportunity to think differently about how we do business. We’ve been given the chance to take a step back and evaluate the areas we can improve on moving forward. We’ve been able to refocus, think about the best way to reset and in many ways restructure, to really accelerate future growth.

For me, the four main pillars in a business’ structure are:

  1. Growth: market development, sales and opportunities.
  2. Lean operations: ensuring processes are efficient.
  3. Culture: a structure that works and sets you up for success, as well as strong relationships with all key stakeholders.
  4. Finance: reporting and improving profitability play a critical part in successfully meeting the business’ goals.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to drive sales and increase margins and you can’t wait around for things to happen, even in the face of a global pandemic it’s incredibly important to be proactive.

A focus on improving the things we know we’re already good at has proven to be a real gamechanger for us and has helped to maximise sales of our higher margin products. We have also refocused on innovation, leaning into the technology and ideas we already had access to, but hadn’t been taking full advantage of. Additionally, because we have really focused on maintaining a positive culture in recent years, our route to market and increasing margin in sectors we work in really has prevailed.

Where do you see your future opportunities lying?

Our future really will be focused on growing the brand and being an industry leader, by maximising on the resources we have access to.

Strong leadership will increase our sales, in turn improving profitability, cash management and financial reporting. Maintaining this focus and continuing to be a trusted brand, will hopefully see us continue on our growth trajectory. 

Due to the events of recent months, trust has proven to be a key component for decision-makers with those at the top only wanting to do business with trusted partners - and this continues to be something we pride ourselves on. Those who get through the pandemic will be stronger, have more stability, and most will only want to work with third-parties and supply chains that they trust and are reliable. The pandemic has exposed the companies that were perhaps always on the weak side when it comes to trust, so businesses really should be thinking about transparency and enforcing strong ethical values if they want to succeed in a post-COVID world.

What are you most optimistic about?

I’m feeling most optimistic about how motivated everyone has been in recent months and I’m hopeful this will continue for the foreseeable future, after seeing how proactive both businesses and employees have been across the board.

Positive, motivated people really do have an incredible impact and influence a business so, if everyone continues on this course, we really do anticipate success like we haven’t seen previously.

What are you looking forward to implementing/changing?

We really have been enjoying focusing our attention on the things we do best and ensuring we’re remaining innovative and forward-thinking. Despite the pandemic presenting many challenges for most businesses, we took it all in our stride and continued to focus on our areas of expertise, which proved to be the right approach for us.

We created a stronger emphasis on the brand and trust in our product, while also empowering employees within the business to make decisions and drive things forward – something we will continue to do.

What opportunities have arisen?

In the short term, we’ve been able to focus on products that are needed due to the pandemic - like graphics to help people follow the rules on everything from social distancing, to one-way systems in public spaces, and handwashing guidelines.

Longer term, our focus will remain on being a trusted supplier, which has proven more important than ever before in recent months, as well as sustainable production and creating innovative signage, graphics and point of sale, for which demand continues to increase.

By investing in and harnessing the latest technology, we’ve been able to create 21st century graphics in a way consumers see as different.

How are you remaining positive?

Knowing we have the right resources and the right team has given us a very positive outlook on the future. This pandemic will decline at some stage and by continuing to focus on all of the areas I’ve already touched on, will position us to take advantage of opportunities amongst companies transitioning back to the workplace.

We plan to continue proactively looking for new opportunities we can lean into, accelerating our sales and increasing our margins.

How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?

I’m lucky as I have been able to continue maintaining a work/life balance. For me, relaxation comes from a tired mind at the end of the day and as the days have been incredibly busy, I’ve been able to switch off during the evening.

What have been your key learnings from the last few months?

Proactivity is the key to success, but even more so during times of crisis. Crisis comes along on a relatively regular basis and while there’s no doubt the pandemic presented challenges on a level many have never experienced before, it’s incredibly important to just keep going.

Be proactive, don’t sit back and wait for things to go ‘back to normal,’ as this won’t always happen. It’s so important to believe in what you are doing and to just keep doing what you do best.

What else are you doing to prepare for the future?

For me, I can’t express the importance of not just waiting around for things to happen. If you’re not proactive in times like these and take the opportunity to step back, plus evaluate the areas you can improve on, it’ll be even harder to survive.

If you’re looking for support on navigating the current climate or for tips on how to communicate through this period, get in touch.

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