Abba Print Company

Origins

ABBA was started out of a single office above a cold store in Cardiff on January 1st 1990. Dave Baker – the founder and current managing director – secured funding from Barclays, as well as credit facilities from major manufacturers in the UK, on the basis of a strong business plan and his previous experience in the print and paper industry. Whilst the business did not get its first customer billing for six weeks, the status of cashflow in print broking was reasonably strong and the accounts maintained a good shape. However, the single biggest challenge to Dave and his new firm was the economic climate of the time as the start-up of the business coincided with the recession of the early nineties and this affected the business’ margin even more than is usual in a new business, where securing new clients is critical. The planned rate of growth was also severely affected and by 1993 when trading conditions began to improve, Abba had only achieved 60% of its original growth targets. However, the small size and structure of the business meant that the company was agile and flexible and was able to react to market conditions on both the supply and sales sides of its market. A focus on the public sector market place – the NHS, Local Government - and blue chip clients in the private sector meant that bad debt was kept to a minimum. Moreover, investment in product development was also a crucial factor in this time. Whilst this is hard to perform in a start up situation when time and resources are minimal, this became a significant factor in keeping the firm in the more profitable sectors of the market and building its reputation. This, along with people development, has remained the cornerstone of Abba’s business strategy.

Success Factor

The three main factors that have driven the growth of the business is investing in people development, giving sales people independence of action and creating products and service methodology that move with, and ahead of, the marketplace. Most importantly, it is the strong belief of the founder that happy people working together is the foundation for the growth of any endeavour "ABBA’s company philosophy is Investing in people and products that position us in (mutually) profitable relationships. If people are channelled into work that they enjoy, the chances are they are that they will be good at it and well motivated. If they are also developing up-to-date products, they will achieve market position which, with good management, will lead to profitability". Given this approach, it is no surprise that the business achieved Investor in People accreditisation in 1999.

The Future

The main aim of the business is to continue the organic growth of the company across the three businesses. ABBA Print is looking to recruit additional sales personnel in 2003 to maintain its steady growth, with a particular focus on the Healthcare market. AVID Design will recruit a further designer in 2003 and will grow in proportion to the publishing and print divisions. Finally, ADCO, will move into workplace voluntary benefit and communication in 2003 as a new branded package "Preference Plan" against which the firm is currently recruiting two sales & marketing positions.