"The scale of the savings is massive."
The Freemans were a happy family of five; Paul and his two sisters enjoyed a good upbringing with great friends, and even today Paul is still in regular contact with friends from Primary School. Not the best of academic students, Paul’s interests were more to do with playing a range of sports and rugby league refereeing.
TAFE beckoned for Paul after Year 10, and he commenced an accounting certificate
course. According to Paul, “I was completely out of my depth. I hated it,” but it stood Paul in very good stead in later life, as he learnt the financial basics all the way from bank reconciliations to profit and loss statements.
Paul’s vocational journey started at 17, at the Maritime Services Board, where he worked in the ADP department (Automatic Data Processing). Watching the evolution of the punch card and the transformation of mainframe software, Paul’s journey reached the lofty heights of customer services coordinator.
After some years with the MSB, Paul moved to a computer bureau, Datacard Australia, looking after their share registry clients. It was a busy period, according to Paul: “The mining boom was happening. We had a lot of fun. A lot of dynamic, young people, all energised. They wanted me to move on to being a programmer, but being pigeonholed into a little box sitting there programming was not going to work for me! So I moved into sales.”
Starting his sales career by selling business forms, Paul was using the lessons he had learnt from his early foray into the computer software industry. He was introduced to Wilkie Business Forms, a business owned by the Murdoch family. This gave him the impetus to join SnapApart, where he worked from 197585. It later merged with its competitors to form Computer Resources.
In a brave move, Paul decided to sell the shares he was allocated when the companies merged, and he used the money to pay off his mortgage. He found employment in a new venture with John Heathcote Printing as Marketing Manager, and at just 38, Paul became Managing Director of a company comprising four busy divisions: forms printer; office stationer; general printer and security printer.
Paul then started his first business, Off & Running Print Management, in 1990, using simple sales and service principles. Paul recalls it all came about via something as simple as his nextdoor neighbour one day casually saying, ‘I need to buy a box of diskettes and I’m sick and tired of you talking about starting your own business.’ Paul resigned the next day. “John Heathcote asked me to stay for about three months till they had a replacement, and in the meantime I took a job selling real estate down in Terrigal.” Working seven days a week, within six months Paul had raised the funds to start his first whollyowned business.
EBisprint evolved out of Off & Running, principally in response to the emergence of the new buzzword: ‘ECommerce’. As early as 1997, the company started to employ software developers, giving them the opportunity to spend time training overseas. The company changed its offering over time promoting itself as a print manager, and later morphed into a managed services provider. They now focus on four main service offerings; warehousing/fulfilment and logistics, corporate apparel and workwear, marketing services, and print management. They’re all managed by an overarching IT division, and everything’s ordered by the customer through a single portal.
The business today participates in the fast moving technology world known as E-Commerce, as well as MCommerce which revolves around mobile devices. EBisprint has moved more into technology, well in front of its competitors, having employed its own system engineers for many years. This has enabled the development of customised eportals for its clients which include a number of government departments. EBisprint’s eportals provide a robust software solution which help businesses organise and manage their printing, promotional products and apparel through a single source management system.
The company is using the eportal model for an increasing numbers of applications. Paul suggests: “MCommerce covers all the latest technology including smartphones, wearables and tablets. This is an area where print is on the way to being totally
eliminated because of the epublishing and ebooks technology now available. Because we’re not a manufacturer, we’re able to move with this technology very quickly without the costs involved in having a factory full of printing presses which need to be kept hard at work. I think this is one of EBisprint’s distinct advantages.”
The company now sees very significant business opportunities overseas. Company growth has been fast but also structured. It currently employs 66 people, with employees located in China, the Philippines, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Tuggerah. Importantly for Paul, they have also won several Innovation awards from the Wyong Regional Chamber of Commerce and even some US printing industry PEAK Awards.
The largest contract in the company’s history has recently been awarded, with the Department of Human Services employing EBisprint to manage over $10 million of print related services annually. This will also open the door for other government departments to become EBisprint customers too.
Paul is always keen to implement new ideas. Constant self-assessment and diversification are part of the overall strategy of EBisprint, and they have recently introduced two new initiatives, aimed at maximising the value for customers in their offering.
Firstly, Zool is EBisprint’s purpose built product-sourcing tool. As an online quotation system, it’s already delivering accurate, fast and reportable quotations from accredited,
local or internationally based suppliers. It’s designed to specifically include print and promotional products as well as apparel requests from a single source all price-tested against other accredited suppliers. Paul is the driving force behind Zool, the dashboard system for procurement and better management of the entire tendering and purchasing process. “The rationale behind our commitment is to allow all of our clients to have control, become competent and smart about their procurement processes,” adds Paul.
In 2014, Zool was awarded 18th place in the BRW Innovation Awards. Offering greater transparency and the option of access through mobile devices, it offers a unique way of comparing and assessing multiple relevant quotes.
The second offering is GangGang which was also developed inhouse. This is an apparel entitlement system which provides an online solution for clients. It not only manages the supply of branded items but also optimises the life of the client’s corporate clothing.
Paul has strategically fostered a true family atmosphere at EBisprint, and the result is a high proportion of longterm employees. In fact some of their longest standing employees are family: Paul’s nephew Peter Miller, who started working with Paul in 1996 in the growing IT area; Paul’s wife Ann started the journey with Paul in 1990; Catherine
Gibson is Paul and Ann’s daughter, and is National Sales Manager; while Scott Gibson has over 10 years working in warehousing/distribution.
Another long term employee is Sean Havard, who has been with the company since 2005, with a two year stint at Work Cover in between. After eight years with EBisprint, Sean has been promoted through its various divisions to now be the CEO, and he is passionate about the new corporate clothing management system, GangGang Garments.
“GangGang Garments came about when we identified a niche and realised that there was a long term lack of innovation within the corporate apparel and workwear industry.
We observed there was simply no innovation within the market, so it presented a great opportunity for us,” explains Sean.
“The eportal allows people who need to manage their corporate clothing requirements; from purchase, then monitoring replacement dates and making sure there’s no theft, or abuse of the benefit. So many employers incur a huge cost around that whole area, and it’s not a choice anymore. Many clients have a fiduciary duty to supply and manage the whole safety clothing and outfitting process. We aim to empower the client with information, helping those people become more efficient and save money. The scale of the savings is massive. When you look at the mining industry, some of those organisations have thousands of employees,” observes Sean.
Sean says he wanted to join EBisprint because he saw he could make a huge difference there: “There’s not so much red tape. Paul’s the owner and it’s a family business. That means I can see the impact of my initiatives, and watch that impact go right through the business. And that’s what I really enjoy.”
Paul’s success has been built on the basic tenet that there is always a better way, and that’s been instrumental in the innovation developed by EBisprint over the years. As Paul concludes, “As a company we’re not satisfied with the status quo we’re always looking to improve on improvements. That generally affects both ourselves and our clients where we can deliver cost-saving benefits through technology.”
Over the past five years alone, EBisprint has won over ten industry awards, including international accolades such as the 2013 Best Practice in Online Quotations, PEAK Award of Excellence, USA. “For over 20 years we have built our reputation on being reliable, competitive and forward thinking, operating on a global scale. As a result we source and supply worldwide, opening unlimited offerings to our clients,” Paul proudly notes.
As a managed services supplier, EBisprint’s capital is not absorbed by equipment; they have strategically invested in people and intellectual property, and have the ability and flexibility to be able to adjust quickly to market trends and developments. “We source quotations from a wide crosssection of industry specialists, and that uniquely enables EBisprint to provide our clients with the most competitive pricing,” says Paul.
EBisprint has a high proportion of government departments as clients. “We often act as a warehousing operation on behalf of our clients, storing all their print related products, ordering the printing of new and reorder items, dispatching to their sites or offices, and most importantly, facilitating a rigorous reporting function. Over the years, we have really fostered the relationships, and a lot of trust has been built up in us managing business critical processes for our clients,” says Paul.
For Paul, it’s also about investing in knowledge. “We also invest in overseas conferences; we like to travel and keep on top of what’s developing internationally. There is so much happening in the digital space it’s almost impossible to digest everything but we like to think we’re well educated. We have a dynamic team who performs very well as a group, always looking at improvements.”
The company is highly entrepreneurial, says Paul. “If there’s something new out there we tend to grab onto it, make it our own, and take it to market as fast as we can, being as early to adopt it as possible. People commented that ‘you’re ahead of your time’ when we started building marketing materials online. Now we’re getting the benefit of that investment in money and time.”
EBisprint has always tried to save their clients’ money, whereas most printers “aren’t that interested in delivering such substantial savings because they also have their equipment to keep running. We don’t have the equipment to worry about, so we can focus on representing our clients.”
The company is looking to get involved more with clients’ marketing in tandem with print and associated items. “When most people talk about eBooks, they just think about the very basic flip type eBook, where you just turn over the pages, without any value added. With the eBooks with which we’re involved, you can link what page people are looking at. If they’re going through a catalogue you can track where the level of interest is, and you can report on that. You then know where the hot buttons are within your marketing or subscriber base.
It puts more science in to marketing,” Paul says.
“We see QR codes as an enormous opportunity for savings. We have suggested to many clients that using a QR code could reduce their print and distribution costs substantially. Not only businesses but also clubs, schools, transport and many, many other clients could gain from using QR codes. They haven’t yet taken off in Australia to the same degree that they have overseas,” adds Paul.
Paul explains trust is a vital component in streamlining a client’s print related operations.
“A lot of trust has been built up in managing business-critical processes for our clients, but they can see they still retain control,” he says. “You really need to have full control of your print and spending before you start bringing in these technology products. You can’t just charge in and say ‘I’m going to convert this to a digital publication’ – you really need to plan and be in control of everything at the start. That’s the approach we take.”
Paul believes the healthy appetite for innovation has been key to the company’s success.
“Over the years our customised eportals have been achieved by listening to our customers and fully understanding their business needs. We take print management services to a whole new level through strategic sourcing, innovative IT solutions, and having good people.”
Acknowledging that conventional mail is still very active, EBisprint has also diversified into its own brand of environmentally friendly envelopes, made from farmed eucalyptus. Thus, the business is also reducing its environmental footprint.
In broader terms, Paul’s ongoing philosophy includes regularly saying that, “little drops fill the bucket. Sometimes this policy annoys people, but in general terms EBisprint has been very generous towards charity and its moral responsibilities.”
EBisprint supports ten local charities, including Stewart House, Police Legacy and the Cancer Council. “We also make other donations directly to people who have fallen on hard times. They may be employees, employees’ families, people within the community, surfing accidents, or paraplegics. We like to do things a little bit under the radar, and not so prominently, but just helping where we can, when people are in need. We feel more comfortable knowing where the money’s going, and feeling that we make a direct contribution. In the past we have sponsored up to $30,000 for Australian Kidney Foundation, and NSW Diabetes for their events. We find it’s more rewarding focusing on the smaller charities and individuals.”
Paul sums up by adding, “At EBisprint, there’s a lot of passion. We enjoy what we do, and we have a lot of fun. But, the real success isn’t about monetary gain. It’s more about the sense of achievement and that gives us real satisfaction.”
- “Little drops fill the bucket.”
- “We’re not satisfied with the status quo, we’re always looking to improve on improvements.”
- “This will open the door for other government departments to become EBisprint customers too.”
Paul Freeman’s life started in housing commission accommodation in Ermington, NSW, and has progressed to a home and business on the NSW Central Coast. He started his career searching for solid ground at the Maritime Services Board, eventually going on to be the Executive Chairman of EBisprint, securing a $50,000,000 government contract along the way.