Hear about Ark Display Graphics’ MD, Steve Farley on his experience.
'Fit for the future’ businesses embrace new tech, seize opportunities, and feel ready to tackle challenges that aren’t yet on the horizon. But what does this look like in practice?
We spoke to Steve Farley, one of the UK’s first digital printers who launched his own print manufacturing business, Ark Display Graphics, 25 years ago – and hasn’t looked back.
“The result opened my eyes.”
We challenged Steve to take our ‘fit for the future’ assessment to see how his business fares. And, as he said, “the result opened my eyes.”
“I knew we were pretty well set for the future, but scoring 76 showed my business is the right path. I answered honestly and wasn’t surprised by the score, but it prompted me to speak to other businesses, and I was stunned to find out how not ‘fit for the future’ so many companies are. And many of them suffered as a result during the pandemic.”
“We closed our doors and had a proper rest.”
We then asked Steve how his business coped during the pandemic. As an organisation that’s well on its way to becoming ‘fit for the future’, Steve was able to adapt with ease and, therefore, was ready for temporary closure.
“We’re a small team, and we don’t have the option to work from home, but my business was already set up for social distancing. We were able to relook at our warehouse and set up new processes to safely distance, so we only had to press pause on business when the government said so. And we did just that – we closed our doors and took the opportunity to have a proper rest.”
“There are so many ways businesses can adapt.”
With flexible and remote working in the spotlight, we asked Steve how this impacted his business and how he adapted. As a manufacturer, there isn’t an option for Steve’s business to operate remotely, but he explained this movement hasn’t gone unnoticed by his team.
“We have to work out of our warehouse, but the idea of flexible working has still worked its way into the business. People don’t want to work quite as much. Those I had to usually through out of the factory at the end of the day are now going home on time. The pandemic made everyone re-evaluate what they wanted to get out of life and reset their values.”
“We can’t offer flexible working, but we made a bold decision to fully close every Friday afternoon. We wrap up at lunch and have an extended weekend, every weekend. There are so many ways businesses like mine can adapt, even if we can’t offer remote or fully flexible working.”
“Being sustainable is massively important.”
It isn’t just employees whose expectations have developed. Customer expectations have skyrocketed over the last year, and they’re calling for businesses to devote more time to social issues and operate sustainably. As a business that’s further along its ‘fit for the future’ journey, Steve explained that social, ethical and sustainable issues are at the top of his agenda.
“Being sustainable and standing up for ethical and social issues shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have’, these characteristics are vital for any business that wants to engage customers and thrive in the future. Plus, for us, being sustainable is massively important because our top five clients are wildlife-related charities – and being ethical is a huge part of why they want to work with us. But we’re always looking for ways to do more, which is why we’re the only company in the UK that can print onto certain recycled and recyclable products.”
“Times have certainly changed.”
A common characteristic of ‘fit for the future’ businesses is their openness to adopting new technologies. So, we were keen to get Steve’s take on how his business manages this, having set up a digital-first company 25 years ago.
“Times have certainly changed and keeping up in terms of costs is quite difficult because technology’s developing every day. But staying up to date is so important. So, you have to strike a balance – keep an eye on the evolving tech and invest when it’s right for you. The key is accepting that you won’t be able to tap into every new tech trend.”
“Worry less and enjoy more.”
'Fit for the future’ businesses look forward but, for a moment, we asked Steve to look back to his company’s early days and share some words of wisdom.
“Things have changed a lot in my business’ 25 years. Looking back, if I could give any advice to someone just starting out, it would be to keep going and don’t worry. I feared the unknown and failure. I spent far too much time worrying so, if I could go back, I’d worry less and enjoy more.”
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