When I walked into the position of CEO of Snap printing and design, a 120-year-old Australian business with over 130 franchise outlets, my thoughts were how to innovate and drive the business in what many would see as a declining industry.
Little could I expect that a few months into my term as CEO that I would be at the helm of the organisation during the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1919.
One advantage of being part of a century old organisation is that we have seen our share of things, from pandemics, through to two world wars, so when it comes to surviving such events, we had history on our side.
Now the first challenge we had as businesses shut across the nation, with people being confined to their homes, was to ensure that each of our centres would come out the other side of lockdown.
Our business is a little different to some, each of our 130 centres are run by business owners, each with families and employees to support, and our goal was to get each one through to 2021.
A key area of this was communication, letting our franchisees know that they were not alone and that Snap as a business were standing by them through these tough times.
One area of great focus for us was protecting the mental health of our people. It was, and continues to be, a significant challenge for all businesses during the pandemic, with uncertainty and the threat to both health and prosperity, an insidious biproduct of the coronavirus.
As a business, Snap communicated daily with our franchise owners, ensuring that they were not for a moment dealing with the outcomes of the pandemic on their own, that Snap would be sharing in their economic pain with our centre owners.
From a corporate perspective we worked with the government to have our centres listed as an essential service, given the need to prepare COVID related signage, which meant that whilst revenue was down due to the closures, Snap as a business could at the least keep the doors open.
Likewise, our centres maintained contact with their customer base, letting them know that when they were back, we were ready to work with them again – the response was inspirational as business owner after business owner replied, “don’t worry we will be back.”
The Australian government helped ease some pressure around finances with the introduction of a job’s subsidy program known as Jobkeeper. As we did not want to waste an opportunity, we used the period of downturn to help skill up our franchise owners and their employees through creating an online training platform.
Whilst the protracted lockdown in Victoria was the darkest challenge, what I am most proud of with our team is that we not only faced down the economic impact of COVID but have come out of the pandemic in a stronger position as a business.
Revenue wise our centres are heading back towards pre-COVID levels and as a business Snap continued to do what we do best, innovate, moving our business across to an eCommerce platform, making it easier for our clients, new and old, to order online or continue to visit in-store – leaving that choice with them.
We also forged a partnership with the world’s fastest-growing online graphic design business CANVA, bringing the future of online design to a bricks and mortar business.
Driving such change during tough times is not and easy task and asking franchise owners within a business who have done things a certain way for many years, to embrace the change during such an uncertain time has come with challenges.
This required the building upon the trust created by leaving nobody behind during the pandemic, making it easier for our franchise owners to ‘buy in’ on the basis that the changes being implemented would be of benefit to each local centre, all aimed at driving new business through their doors.
Again, communication in a successful transition to create the hybrid model of merging the old and the new was critical, and it is a great credit to the Snap management team and each centre owner, that we stand together in driving change that has not only seen survival, but more importantly has set up our centres to thrive in the post-COVID world.
These changes have shown that even in the most uncertain of times, we have continued to see new franchisees join the Snap family, and world leading changes we have made will ensure that when it comes to Snap, print as an industry is very much alive.
The key to the success in driving this needed change through challenging times has been:
- The knowledge that we as a business have survived many global challenges
- That all involved with Snap knew and understood that we were all in this together
- As a business we focused on what we could control
- Saw the challenge of the economic impact of COVID as an opportunity rather than a threat
Change is not easy, no matter the circumstances, but by working together and embracing change is ultimately the secret to overcoming the most difficult of challenges.
Written by Richard Thame.