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Printing in an instant

WHEN Stan Watt imported American printing technology to WA in the late 1960s he revolutionised Australia’s printing industry, at the same time establishing a competitive advantage for his printing store, Snap Printing.

Mr Watt took over his father’s printing shop, Imperial Printers but then sold it, and its machines, after he brought back printing technology from America to set up his new concept – Snap Printing.

“When I first went to the States they were doing same-day printing. The next time I went there they were doing 20-minute printing,” Mr Watt said.

“In Australia it took two weeks to deliver a printing job. Within four months of getting back from America we got the technology and we started Snap.

“The logo we had was a rabbit. I wanted that because it was a symbol of speed. The motto was: ‘Nothing produces faster than Snap’.”

The first store was located on St Georges Terrace and opened in October 1967. There are now 134 Snap Printing stores in WA and the franchise operates in China, New Zealand and Ireland.

“Bringing the technology and printing concepts to Australia made Snap Printing the first instant copy service in the country,” Mr Watt said.

“In the early 1970s it was almost impossible to get a document photocopied, especially within a short time frame.”

Mr Watt sold the business to his brother, Colin Watt, and sister Joyce Read-Smith, in the 1980s.

His recollection of building up a printing empire is one of business strategy and avoiding the unions.

“We refused to employ printers that were union orientated and would not work how we wanted them to,” Mr Watt said.

“We had to have people who would do what we asked them to we couldn’t have trades people telling us how to do it.

“We said we don’t employ anyone that is a union member. I didn’t like how they operated. Women weren’t allowed to do certain things. We employed girls who worked in the binding room and put them on the machines. They weren’t allowed to do that with the union. They couldn’t operate guillotines either.”

Franchises were not as prevalent as they are today and Mr Watt had to devise a strategy to keep the business growing and ensure its success overseas.

“Generally we trained people in WA and we picked them as leaders to give a master franchise to and set up franchises overseas,” he said.

“We decided to send a key executive from the company overseas each year to make sure the franchises were operating the way they should.”

Mr Watt, a former World War II Kitty Hawk pilot, attended several business courses, which he also believes helped him to grow the business.

“I learnt quite a lot about strategic planning and I ended up giving lectures on that later on at the business college,” he said.

“That helped me develop the Snap business.”

Mr Watt said while the company initially had a competitive technological advantage it wasn’t long before the competition caught up.

“We started off just doing black and white because you would have to wash the plates after each colour print. Then we got colour copying machines in so we could do colour on separate machines,” he said.

“We had to keep one step ahead of the competition.”

Mr Watt’s niece, Caroline Woodhouse, is currently a non-executive director of the business and said the franchise strategy remained a major contributor to the company’s successful operation.

“It provides the franchisees with a template to run a successful business,” she said.

Keeping ahead of the competition and being relevant to the customer was also a core strategy.

“Technology is always changing and we put a lot of time and money in intellectual property and research and development,” Ms Woodhouse said.

“It’s come a long way since the days of the rabbit logo. It’s moved more into business solutions and graphics has become a larger part of the business.

“There is a lot more digital technology today as well. We can take things via disc and we’ve got online ordering and amazing copying facilities.”

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