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One-to-one with Philip Bond

Michelle Ryder caught up with Philip Bond, CEO at Vision

Michelle Ryder (MR): It’s been a while since we last spoke and the past 20 months have undoubtedly posed a whole new set of challenges for the channel, how’s business been for Vision?

Philip Bond (PB): Like almost every business in our sector, our revenues did take a hit at the beginning of the pandemic and particularly during the first lockdown. It was a challenging time, but after a lull, sales did pick up again and it wasn’t long before we recovered. By the spring, we were at 80 per cent of where we would normally be in terms of service revenue.

Around one-third of our business comes from the NHS, and naturally that was the one sector that didn’t shut down during the pandemic – in fact we realised an uptick in revenue across our client base. We also have a lot of clients within social care, housing and healthcare groups, as well as within the shipping sector, so all things being equal, around half of our business traded as normal. This compensated for other areas such as universities and professional services – lawyers, accountants, banks etc. where printing activity slowed right down.

MR: Vision has enjoyed some significant success within the public sector and has achieved a place on four major frameworks, is this a key growth area for you?

PB: Yes, currently around 30 per cent of company sales come from within the public sector. We currently have a place on the Crown Commercial Service, London Procurement Partnership, Crescent Purchasing Consortium and the National Procurement Service for Wales frameworks.

Our success in winning accounts in this area is having a positive impact on our performance and this is an area where we feel we can grow further into. There are fewer independent resellers on the frameworks in comparison to the OEMs and that creates opportunity for us – as our breadth of offering is not vendor-specific.

We have always had a strong public sector team and recently recruited an additional three new people. Plus, in October 2021 we achieved the ISO 27001 accreditation, which demonstrates our commitment to following the best practices of information security – that gives us a competitive edge.

MR: Print volumes have long been declining, and this has been further compounded as a result of the pandemic. What new areas are you embracing outside of the traditional print business?

PB: A lot of the conversations we have with prospects begin with digital transformation (DX) and automating paper-based workflows, that then leads nicely into the print conversation.

However, today, we live in a subscription economy – as individuals we are used to consuming as-a-service and we firmly believe that model needs to translate into the business world. Our sector has in essence been on this journey for a long time – MPS is to some extent provided as-a-service, but we need to adapt the model even further, eliminating the need to ‘own’ the hardware and to fund it out of capex, bundling solutions together that are hosted in the cloud and charged by user or similar.

Print has been depressed but it’s not dead – there is still a lot of opportunity if you do things the right way. We see opportunity in helping clients get a grip on spend – the hybrid working model and shadow IT has created a problem in that area, plus, we’ve moved away from a centralised print environment to a decentralised model – that’s a good thing for the sector. Our plan is to grow the business through providing everything – including DX as-a-service. That will strengthen our annuity stream, help us to sell more services, create customer stickiness and positively impact retention levels.

MR: You have a plan in place to achieve £50 million in three years, is acquisitive growth a part of the plan?

PB: We completed three acquisitions prepandemic and we have funds in place to acquire a further three businesses. Our strategy is to grow our MIF and presence throughout the UK and the acquisition of regional businesses is key to not only building a bigger customer base, but to also boost our sales and service presence through a wider network of local offices.

We are looking ahead to 2022 with much positivity – we have a three year plan in place to achieve £50 million turnover and we will do that by continuing to develop our offering, and doing the right thing by our clients and our people.

After being apart for so long, we are excited about bringing all of our people back together once again. We have refurbished our offices to make them more sociable – for us, getting back to the office is all about coming to a place where we can meet, collaborate, share and work together as one team.