Jeff and Lise are the marketing services providers of choice for respected clients such as Thomas R. Callan Auctioneers and Valuators.
Jeff and Lise Whittle bring depth of knowledge from diverse careers into their digital print, design and marketing services centre in Ayr. The well-educated couple developed respectable, diverse careers. Jeff says, “I am a graduate mechanical engineer (University of Bristol) and have an MBA from Kingston Business School. My previous career was as a Quality Engineer becoming a Quality Director, before I moved into Programme Management as a Project Director.” Meanwhile, Lise focused her skills both in the creative and educational fields. “My wife, Lise, has an artistic background, having studied Silversmithing and Jewellery to degree level, she became a Designer Jeweller until our family came along. When she returned to work, she became a part-time Teaching Assistant.” They gained strong reputations in their industries of choice, but as their lives progressed, the demands of working for someone else became complicated and the desire to simplify and make room for more time together led them to Minuteman Press International.
Jeff reflects on the journey of his work prior to entrepreneurship, “My UK company was acquired by a US company and I was later promoted to General Manager running a £50million Sales factory with 500 employees. The US parent company had a strong focus on Sales and I moved into the Sales Team eventually becoming a Global Sales Director looking after major OEM accounts. By 2005, the company had closed the Western European facilities and had moved them to a large site close to Warsaw, Poland, where I had a weekly commute from the UK.” Though he remained steadfast, tough economic times often influence corporate layoffs, and Jeff’s company was no exception. “The US parent company eventually closed the Warsaw factory in 2007 and I moved to their larger competitor, the US based Flextronics, as a Senior Business Development Director for their Polish facility in the north of Poland. I worked there for 2 years, before the recession hit and when the Western European expatriates were eventually let go, as we had trained up our Polish colleagues.”
Having had enough of travel in Europe, Jeff started to look for a job closer to home. “One of my electives for my MBA was small business management and I thought it was time to be my own boss. I went along to a franchise fair in Glasgow and met the Minuteman Press International team. I was definitely interested and Vice President George Holzmacher met me on several occasions to visit some of the Minuteman centres in Scotland, including Glasgow High Street, Glasgow Mount Florida, Coatbridge, East Kilbride and Kilmarnock.” The impression made upon visiting working Scottish Minuteman Press owners was enough to warrant serious consideration, but the choice to buy a printing business was not one he, nor Lise would take lightly.
Coming from a manufacturing engineering background, one of the key factors in the couple’s choice, Minuteman Press, was the proprietary software that was part of the proven system of operations. It had been carefully designed to benefit thousands of franchise owners worldwide and over decades helped them establish strong businesses. Jeff explains, “At that time it was called Focus, but Minuteman Press has made a major investment and redesigned the system from scratch to an even better system called Flex. Another key factor was that the company had family values and really wanted the owners to succeed, offering superb support at all times.”
After thorough due-diligence, Jeff and Lise decided to go ahead with a new start-up franchise in their home town of Ayr. “After identifying a site for our store, Lise and I went to the two week training in the US. Again, I was impressed with Minuteman Press facilities and the high standard of training. Personally, it was important to really succeed as we were investing our life savings in this new venture and I made sure I did the homework each night, so we were prepared for the next day’s training!”
Arriving back from the US, they were pleased to see that the centre we had chosen was revamped and made ready. “Our new equipment was installed and tested. We interviewed and selected a full-time Graphic Designer who we employed, and we were ready to open on 19 October 2009 when the country was still in recession. We were very ably supported by our Area Manager Dave Watson, who worked with us for 3 weeks with our store set up and initial marketing to our local business community.”
Building something truly great comes with sacrifice and dedication, both of which Jeff and Lise have given in abundance as marketing services providers to the community of Ayr since the beginning. “Lise worked part-time in the store and I worked full time. It was tough at the beginning, however, I received terrific support from Dave Watson, my local BNI group, friends and relatives and I redoubled my marketing efforts to get it on track.”
And one of the finest rewards of entrepreneurship came to fruition for Jeff and Lise through franchise ownership – a life’s work that includes their children.
As they establish their reputation for excellent results and personal service, client loyalty deepens and the couple’s children benefit from the need to expand the care of the client base. “Our business has steadily grown,” Jeff explains. “Our two sons and daughter worked part-time during their university and college holidays. Our youngest son continues to work part-time within the bindery department, and our daughter, Lara (the youngest), has joined us as a full-time graphic designer, since leaving college with her HND. It is marvellous that the next generation has joined us and we enjoy working well together. We also employ two other full-time graphic designers (who are also both excellent), so we have doubled our staff complement since we have opened.”
Dave Watson, Area Manager for Minuteman Press International, UK North, is pleased to provide continuing, local support to Minuteman Press in Ayr. “Lise and Jeff are an absolutely lovely couple who have been a pleasure to work with over the years. Their determination, work ethic, focus on quality and great customer service has seen him build a great family business.”
“It is important to keep marketing to new and existing customers and we aim to serve our customers with care and efficiency. We are also proud when new customers come to us on the basis of referrals.” – Jeff Whittle
The training Jeff and Lise engaged so intently prior to and during their tenure as owners included the proper way to develop relationships that could translate to business partnerships. Networking commenced without delay and face-to-face greetings to local businesses who may need their services proved fruitful quickly. As Jeff explains, “One of our first marketing calls was to Thomas R Callan Auctioneers and Valuators, whose premises are just 50 metres around the corner from us in Smith Street. Dave Watson and I took samples of their stationery back and returned the next day with a quotation. Claire was really pleased to have a printer so local, and our first order followed a few weeks later on 18 November 2009! Since then, we have continued to do a lot of their printing and design: folded business cards, flyers, folded leaflets, posters, presentation folders, envelopes, carbonless pads, auction cards and labels.”
Thomas R Callan were featured on the programme “Flog it”, last year and are clients of Minuteman Press in Ayr.
One of the many highlights presented about the company’s high-end sales was a fine oil painting by Dorothea Sharp titled ‘Summer Breeze’. Also, Callan’s sold a larger painting by Dorothea Sharp titled “The Little Pond Yacht” at the Turnberry Art Sale in November 2017 for £23,000 plus premiums. Therefore, it was no surprise that this equally lovely coastal scene with children playing on the beach (Summer Breeze) realised £20,000 plus premiums on 28 April 2018!
As Minuteman Press in Ayr is such a warm, welcoming place to meet for consultation, Jeff and Lise frequently receive visitors glad to meet in person to complete projects and this particular client happens to be a neighbour. “It is great being so local, as Michael Callan will pop in to discuss an idea he has with one of our graphic designers. We can then turn it into a finished design and walk across the road with a proof! There have been odd occasions when Thomas R Callan Ltd have been close to running out of stationery, and we have turned around the printing within an hour,” according to Jeff.
Claire Millett is the Office Manager at Thomas R. Callan and she has no hesitations praising their professional relationship Minuteman Press. “The service we get from Jeff, Lise and their staff at Minuteman Press is absolutely great and the quality of what they produce for us is excellent. We have a great partnership.”
As marketing services providers it is clear there is no need to go elsewhere as Claire adds, “When we need things done, no matter how short the notice, they do it right away. We are thankful to get first class treatment from our partnership with Minuteman Press in Ayr.”