Franchisee in Action: Snap Printing

By Donna Bennett

This article appeared in Issue 3#2 (January/February 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand


Simon Allaway, Snap Printing Centre Manager and co-franchisee, has not merely inherited the family business.  Solid work at a grass roots level has definitely earned him the privilege of managing a successful franchise.

From its Australian beginnings in 1903, Snap Printing has become the leading business print and design group for Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and China, with over 150 owner-operated printing centres.

Simon explains his St Leonards franchise in NSW is situated close to the city:  “We’re about 6kms out of the CBD, so it’s a commercial area, between North Sydney and Chatswood. There are a lot of businesses here; it’s a very good area.”

Simon’s parents have owned the franchise for 18 years, with Simon working in the business for the last decade.  Simon has recently acquired 25% ownership in the franchise and will increase his share to 75% over the next few years.

Over 20 years ago, Simon became an employee of the then company owned Snap Printing, after completing secondary school.  His father John was a Regional Manager and Simon’s mother initially discouraged him from working at the same company.

“I actually got my mate a job at Snap when he left school”, says Simon.  “And then a position came up and he told me about it, so that’s how I applied.  I actually got the position without Dad’s knowledge, which was interesting.”

Focusing on the production side of the business, Simon’s entry level was working in the bindery.  He then undertook a printing course in WA and began operating the smaller offset presses, later working in various company owned Snap Printing Centres.

In the 1980s, Snap Printing began selling their centres as franchises.  Simon’s father bought the Crows Nest franchise in 1989 and Simon worked there for two and a half years.

After four years with Snap Printing, Simon left Sydney and the printing industry for eight years.  He explains, “I went and lived on the Gold Coast for four years and worked in hospitality.  I got a job at the Sheraton and was working in the restaurants.  Then I went overseas for another four years.”  This included living in Holland for six months, working in hospitality in London for three years and another six months travelling.

Simon returned to Australia in late 1998.  “I was running a little restaurant in Surry Hills but went back to Snap after six months”, he reveals.  “At the time, I was working quite hard - for really nice people - but didn’t feel I was getting anywhere.  I was enjoying the job but it wasn’t completely what I was after.

“At the same time, my father had a couple of staffing issues.  He was working on one side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge working his guts out and I was on the other side of the bridge slogging my guts out.  Over a couple of dinners, we just sort of decided it might be an idea to give it a go together.  Snap had changed so much since I’d been away, and I was always going to come back and do something different.”

John Allaway had come to own two Snap Printing Centres that were situated close together.  Simon admits, “We actually had some inefficiencies.  I came back in and over the next couple of years we just knuckled down and ended up closing one of the centres.

“We had Crows Nest and St Leonards - literally they were within half a kilometre of each other and we were basically splitting our market.  We decided to bring all the Crows Nest clients into the St Leonards centre and all the personnel as well.  Obviously we got over some of the inefficiencies there, just with overheads and that sort of thing.”

An only child, Simon gets along well with his parents.  His mother does not work in the business anymore but his father remains involved, “John still works in the business four days a week.”

Simon describes his role and staff:  “My primary focus is just keeping everything ticking over.  I’ve got two graphic designers, a customer sales representative and two people in production; they’re the staff that we have in the centre and then there’s John.  He doesn’t necessarily get involved too much in the day to day stuff; he looks after the debtors, new projects, the money and all that sort of thing; and he’s there to fill in spots where we need it.

“Being a small business, you don’t always have the right amount of resources for the particular occasion.  You might have a lot of production or there are a whole lot of quotes to do – there are a lot of different things.  My job is generally just making sure that everything runs smoothly.”

A normal start for Simon is 7.30am/8.00am and he generally leaves work between 5.00pm and 6.00pm.  “It depends on what’s going on.  If nothing’s going on and it’s 5.00pm, I’ll go home.  But if there are things to do, you just have to do them.  It’s the same if I need to come back and work at night, I’ll do that.  If I need to come in on the weekends, I’ll do that as well.  It really does depend.”

Simon explains that the bulk of print production is completed off-site:  “We’ve got access to the ‘Hub’, which is a large offset printing facility.  It works like a big co-op, where basically the Snap Printing Centres send their work there, instead of having the duplicity with machinery in the actual centres.”

The Sydney Hub has far better, more efficient equipment and it operates six days a week, 24 hours a day.  Simon estimates 90-95% of the franchises in Sydney use the Hub, and each state has a Hub except Victoria.

Simon’s basic morning routine is checking the work in progress:  “We have a meeting with the staff at 9.00am, so that everybody knows what they need to do and what our priorities are for the day.  The first part of the morning is spent getting things ready for the Hub because our courier leaves at 11.00am.”  Simon also follows up on quotes, as well as working on Snap’s newly added service –Level 2.

In addition to providing business printing, design, document, copying and management services, Snap Printing has recently introduced ‘Snap Level 2’.  This is a service offering professional marketing, design and advertising support to small and medium sized businesses.

Simon is thrilled that his franchise was one of the first centres to offer Snap Level 2, back in July 2008:  “We’ve got a separate area in our centre where people come in, which is designed to look like an advertising studio.  The type of conversation you have in there with clients is completely different to the printing counter.

“The conversation with clients at the front counter generally tends to be a lot faster.  People just come in, give you the work and they’re on their way.  It becomes quite difficult for us to add value to what they’re doing or to sometimes even get an idea of what they’re doing.  Snap Franchising saw it as an opportunity to move us up the chain a little bit.

“The whole idea with Snap Level 2 is that we can approach people from a different perspective and can come in on the job earlier, rather than just being the print provider at the end.”  Offering a one-stop shop is another major benefit, to both the customer and Snap.

A great deal of his time is now dedicated to Snap Level 2, especially towards customer meetings.  Simon explains, “We’re conducting workshops to raise awareness for clients.  We’re also just getting people in to sit down and talk about their business.  

“And tucked into all of that is the day to day operations.  Because we’ve still got equipment here (a high speed colour laser copier, black and white copiers, poster printers and all the finishing equipment), there is still a fair amount of production that gets done.  Obviously I try not to get involved too much in that, but there are days where you just have to, depending on the way that things happen, people’s deadlines and your resources.”

Simon sees Snap Level 2 as a natural business evolution:  “The writing was on the wall:  the printing side of the business needed to be doing other things.  Snap started back in the 1970s and the centres in those days had a small offset printing press, a camera where you made the plate that went on the small press, and a photocopier on the counter - and that was it.  You took a really small area in a high traffic retail environment; you put your sign out the front and work walked in the door.

“That was great for about 10-15 years, but then technology has eaten away at a lot of the traditional markets.  For instance, a certain amount of forms – 20 or 30 forms – 20 years ago, that was done on that type of equipment in a Snap Printing Centre.  Then with the advent of technology, photocopiers started going into offices and all that work just disappeared.”

Over the decades, Snap has been adding more and more services to meet new client and technological demands.  Simon continues, “There are little niche markets that exist all over the place and it’s just a matter of tapping into the ones that are profitable.

“We added design 10-15 years ago.  Snap Level 2 is just another thing that we’re adding and it’s dove-tailing into the existing business, but it’s going to help drive the existing business.”

Including Simon and John, St Leonards has a staff of seven.  Hiring quality employees that are prepared to rally together to complete any type of job, has been critical for the franchise’s success.

Simon confirms, “I’ve got a really good team.  We’ve done our best to get people as cross-trained as possible.  There’s one person who can work in every single department of the centre.  His main focus is production but if I need him to do some art work, he can do that.  My counter sales lady Katie, she’s training to help me talk to people about Snap Level 2.  Both my graphic designers can go out and do production if necessary.  Basically everybody here can run the equipment as well.”

Most are long term employees and although sales grew over 20% in the last financial year, Simon has not acquired more staff:  “Because of the arrangement we’ve got with our Hub, a lot of the production gets done out there.  So we had some really good growth last year, but we didn’t necessarily have to take anybody on.”

Simon says that although things get hectic, St Leonards has a comfortable working environment:  “We try and keep things as relaxed as they can be.  It can be quite a tough industry because it is so deadline orientated, so there’s a fair bit of pressure.  A lot of the time the pressure is external, so it’s quite difficult to manage it.  You do your best, but then every once in a while, you just get things dropped on you.

“My guys and girls know that when the pressure’s on, they have to perform.  When things are less stressful and they need to take a half day off or leave early, that’s fine.  We’ll buy them lunch when we’ve had a good month.  We try our best to look after them; make them feel that they’re appreciated - because they are.  From the wages surveys I receive, from both in and outside Snap, we definitely pay above average.  We wouldn’t be able to do this on our own and we know that.”

Simon discusses his top three clients, “I’ve got a major IT company, a major construction company and a major skin care company.  We do completely different things for the three of them.”

Knowledge of all his clients’ businesses and industries is paramount with Snap Level 2, says Simon:  “That’s one of the things we’re really concentrating on:  finding out as much as we possibly can about our clients.  We need to help them sell whatever it is they’re selling or do whatever it is they’re doing.  If we can help our clients grow, then we can grow.”

Enthusiastic about Snap’s continued growth, Simon is especially excited about Snap Level 2:  “Yes we are a printer, but we’re also providing marketing and design services, advertising campaigns, websites and e-newsletters.  It’s not just the printed page anymore because there’s electronic media.  It’s about tying all of those things together, rather than just being the guy at the counter who gets the disc and produces the brochures.”

The 40-year-old thoroughly enjoys working in his franchise:  “I love it.  You plan as much as you possibly can but there’s always a curve ball.  I actually enjoy working under pressure and having a whole lot of things on the go at the one time.  Funnily enough, hospitality is similar and I really enjoyed that too - pressure brings out the best in me.

“The hospitality industry is great, but it’s a young person’s game.  Cashing up at 2.00am after working 14 hours is a bit tough”, he laughs.  “In that respect and from a lifestyle point of view, this is so much better.  It’s generally 8 to 5 and you get your weekends off.”

Simon and Snap seem destined for a long relationship:  “When I first came back, I said I’d give it three years.  I’ve been back for 10 years and I’m not thinking of going anywhere else.”


Why You Should Choose a Snap Printing Franchise

Open doors of new and promising opportunities with a Snap Printing franchise!

As one of the most recognised franchise brands in Australia, you will constantly grow and evolve with the company.

  • We have already put in place a dependable plan to make Snap Printing the key player when it comes to print, design and websites for small businesses.

  • Snap Printing’s franchise model is one of the most successful in Australia.

  • Snap Printing offers systems and processes that are designed to simplify your business.

  • We offer staff support to ensure the success of your Snap Printing franchise.

  • Snap Printing has over 150 franchises in Australia and more than 500,00 clients

  • The company has an annual turnover of $120 million