Building on Years of Success in Magazine Printing, Pensord Looks to Future Developments; Robert Llewellyn Jones Talks to the Managing Director of Specialist Printing Venture Pensord, Darren Coxson, Who Explains Why He Is Upbeat for the Prospects of the Company despite the Challenges Facing the Wider Sector
Byline: Robert Llewellyn
THE WORLD owns a great debt to Johannes Gutenberg.
He did, after all, make it possible for us to read the works of Aristotle, Shakespeare and the Sermon on the Mount. Would he recognise the present-day industry that he had helped start is highly debatable. Yet those who work for magazine and periodical publisher Pensord are direct descendents of the printing press process he began more than 500 years ago.
The company, based at Pontllanfraith, was set up in 1969 by the Bill Board Company of America to produce a weekly publication called Record Week which later became Music Week and now, 40 years on, periodical magazines remain Pensord's core business. Over the last 10 years the company has been the subject of two management buy-outs.
Among its previous owners was the Aspen Group, an American investment company that bought UK companies with the intention of growing them and selling them on at a profit. When its acquisition strategy changed, Pensord was surplus to requirement and became part of a MBO led by the then managing director Tony Jones. Darren Coxson current managing director, who joined the business in 2002 from another Valleys-based printing house Stephens and George, takes up the story.
He said: "I joined knowing there was an MBO in progress and was excited by knowing here was an under-invested-in company, but one with a solid customer base, loyal workforce, investing in latest technology to improve both efficiency and quality.
"When the buyout was finalised in 2003 we had planned our strategy, which was to double the size of the business in terms of turnover, returning it to profitability and to invest in both people and technology. Over the course of time we have been able to do this."
As a result Mr Coxson said Pensord went from a pounds 6m turnover in 2003 to pounds 12m in 2008 and has invested more than pounds 13m since 2003 in plant, equipment and people development through skills training.
Reflecting on this he explained: "It started with the introduction of our charter which stated the way we wanted to conduct the business.
To enable this we used an external facilitator to help introduce this to the staff and get their feedback, then we rolled it out to our customer base and suppliers."
In retrospect he acknowledges that sending out a charter to customers and clients which, at the time, was purely aspirational was a brave thing to do. That, he now believes, was the starting point that helped galvanise staff and helped lay the foundations for its current profitability.
In 2010 the second MBO took place when Mr Jones sold and Mr Coxson took over.
The managing director recalled: "It was quite an open process which we had spent time working towards. Tony's intention when he bought the business had been to stay 10 years so we spent time building towards this. So when the time arrived we achieved the best possible outcome for all concerned."
Known in the trade as a controlled circulation, periodical magazine printing company Pensord's production figures are impressive with 380 regular titles to its credit and around nine million packets posted every year to range of publishers including companies like the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) and Centaur and small, independent publishers employing between 10 and 15.
"Our dictum is we will deliver outstanding levels of service and support to all customers irrespective of size," Mr Coxson said.
"Since 2003 we have grown considerably increasing staff number from 116 then to today's figure of 144. …