What makes our business different, how we find ourselves in a stronger position in a recession because of our long-term view.
Over the years we have had a lot of debate about how we operate as a business. It is only in recent years that there has been a general pooling of knowledge about family businesses. Certainly they are businesses but it is clear they are not the same as companies quoted on the stock market (PLCs) or venture capital backed businesses or private equity businesses. They are sort of cousins, but maybe second cousins, or more distant than that.
In the family business world, which is represented by the global 'Family Business Network' and more specifically in the UK by the 'Institute of Family Business' there is a commonly used term referred to as 'patient capital'. That is a reference to what the shareholders are trying to do to the business. Patient capital, which means 'patient money' does not demand the instant returns of our distant cousins.
In a PLC, a year is quite a long time, and five years is a very long time. In family businesses, three years is a short time, 10 years is medium time and 25 years is thought to be a lot. In a PLC a chief executive might be in post for five years, in a family business a chief executive might be in post for 25 years.
The statements in the previous paragraph are pretty true for Linney Group. They don't mean that we move slowly, more that we see and need our business to be constantly changing. That means we are usually building for the future which means that sometimes we have to invest really heavily with little short-term results. I have always been fascinated by the business world's infatuation with a financial year; who invented that? Why not a financial three years? Twelve months is actually a very short space of time, and to thrash away at exceptional results every year is tricky and very hard on the business.
Markets change and the way the business approaches changing markets has to change. This means we may need new people, retraining of existing people, new kit, buildings and systems. All these changes take time, and of course, when you are moving from one world to another… you make a lot of mistakes.
You could even say that the great enemy for us is when things stay the same because that means we have stopped innovating. Many of the stories in this issue show incredible innovation and commitment from our people and that is what drives our business forward. Staying the same is pretty dangerous now because things can change and if they can change, we have to keep changing, even hopefully leading the change.
In a recession or a boom, we quietly go about our business, pressing on. We never do as well as others in a boom and hopefully we never do as badly as them in a recession… we just press on trying to make our business better. A recession will be bad for some of our clients and there is no escaping that so we have to be careful, but this year our business will celebrate its 163rd birthday and even though we don't blow our trumpet too much about it, it's a mighty achievement, even by global family business standards. One of the main reasons we are 163 is because right now we want to make at least our 200th birthday and that makes us think long-term. 164 is no good to us!
Creating a wow factor
Here at Linney Group, more and more of what we create is viewed on screens, from internal communications on television screens, to in-store POS and interactive video walls and projectors, more consumers are looking at more of our messages on more and more different devices.
So displaying that work to our internal teams and our clients when they visit has always been a challenge, now we have a solution: the new video wall.
The new wall will allow is to show spectacular single screen images to small detailed views of web sites and intricate content, all in 3D and high definition, this strategically placed as the first impression of Linney Design.
So on the next visit to Linney Design check out the new welcome area to the digital team, and be ready to see the big image.
Doing our bit, on a rainy day at Wootton Bassett
The Royal British Legion has six Fields of Remembrance across the country, giving everyone the opportunity to express their support for those who serve in the Armed Forces.
As part of the continued fundraising appeal, Linney Group produce almost seven million 'direct mail' packs containing paper poppies and wooden crosses. These are for those donating to offer a personal message of support and once returned they are planted in the Fields of Remembrance.
But what happens when the field closes? Well, that's when an intrepid team of volunteers from Linney Group set off to Wiltshire!
Members of The Royal British Legion print management team; Glyn Fairest, Dan Outram, Lisa Kendall and Adrian Wray spent a cold morning in a wet field removing crosses and separating poppies from their bases. Glyn offered excellent project management experience as we discussed the best methods of extracting what looked like an awful lot of poppies.
At the end of the day 40,000 wooden crosses were packed away and 20,000 poppies taken apart to start life again next year!
We had heartfelt thanks from the client delivered by way of copious hot drinks and toasted sandwiches. But we all went away perhaps more satisfied by knowing we'd helped in a small way, and a little taken aback after seeing first hand the multitude of messages to those who serve.
Bellamy... building for the future
It has been nearly two years since we completed the purchase of the Barrs Soft Drinks site that borders Adamsway, our home for the last 16 years. To remind ourselves, the Barrs site – now renamed the Bellamy site –is actually a little bit bigger than Adamsway at 17 compared with 14 acres.
Opportunities to acquire adjacent land can be very rare and whilst the decision to buy Bellamy was quite 'a big bite' at the time we knew it might be a long time before we got the chance again – if ever. We also knew that our business was growing and that we were renting nearly 50,000 sq ft of space that we were using around the Mansfield area.
Two years later and we can feel pretty vindicated that our decision was a good one as the Bellamy site has been essential in being able to welcome and facilitate new business wins and it gives us enough space to keep pushing ahead with our plans and supporting our clients' growth.
Our storage and fulfilment work will affect our property requirements most and it could be argued that with more and more going online and digital then our need for storage would reduce. However, we are also seeing a growing need for our clients' 'goods' to be stored and distributed as they switch more from the high street to a 'click and drop/collect' world.
The scale we have and the prudent financial management of the business, coupled with the business environment we find ourselves in, means we have made quite a 'shift' in what we have to offer over the last few years. To operate out of a 35-acre site in the middle of the country with a strong balance sheet and track record of delivery should give us a great platform from which to attract new clients and continue to work with the great clients we already have.
We will not be complacent and will continue to run our company with the same long-term thinking and values as has always been the case – but we will also not be shy or worried about investing when we get the opportunity.
I would finally like to thank the many, many people who have done so much to make the transition into Bellamy possible. Of course this has been our people who have all pitched in and worked so many hours (in pretty cold conditions at times!) but also to the many suppliers and contractors who have been extremely helpful in making things happen quickly and efficiently with no disruption to the business. Things change very quickly in business and it is great to know that, once again, Linney people performed exceptionally well.
We are in a great position to be as flexible as we can be as we watch the future with both our clients and the marketplace in general. Whatever it brings we can adapt quickly to meet the opportunities and protect our future security and prosperity.
I liken the purchase of the Bellamy site to playing Monopoly and landing on The Strand when you already own Trafalgar Square and Fleet Street! We really had to buy it so we could develop our property and 'keep a winning hand in the game'