Four Duquesnays building on the legacy of their fathers - Aim to take Lithographic Printers public in three years
A vision by four brothers in 1958 to manage a local printing business today stands as the source of employment for more than 100 individuals and one of the top five players in Jamaica’s printing landscape.
Their father, Gerald Duquesnay, took a leap of faith and assisted the brothers, Robin, Patrick, Anthony and Mark Duquesnay, in a takeover of United Sales Company – a business which had its core operation in stationery and office supplies but dabbled in printing services.
Now another generation of Duquesnays is at the helm of the company now known as Lithographic Printers Limited, and they still see a lot of room to grow the business, and build on the legacy of their parents.
“Our father was the top salesman for the print business and they thought it was a good opportunity to buy out the printery for the four boys,” said Simmon Duquesnay, son of Robin Duquesnay and director of Lithographic Printers.
“The idea was thrown out to our grandfather; they got the money, came together and bought the business in 1960,” Simmon said.
Operating from no more than a 3,000 square feet plant at Water Lane in downtown Kingston, Lithographic Printers started out with offset printing services on paper, magazines, calendars, posters and other promotional items for corporate companies and individuals as its core operation.
Lithographic employed a team of 25, who lived in the surrounding communities, to serve its Jamaican clientele. Still, the business model required contract work from the United States.
“We had these things called the negatives which we had to send to Miami to get the separations done because nobody offered the service in Jamaica. It would take weeks to get our separations back,” Simmon said.
Despite the lag time created from the need to utilise the production facility of a US-based company, Lithographic Printers, which was headed by Robin Duquesnay, carved out a niche in the local printing market from its strength in colour printing.
The services rendered resulted in the steady growth of Lithographic’s customer base, which consisted mainly of corporate businesses, which forced the company to find and relocate to a larger facility on Hanover Street in Kingston.
Then in 1969, Patrick and Robin took the decision to acquire and relocate again to a 28,000 square feet space at 14 East Avenue, as the business continued to grow. The era, however, came with its own challenges for the printing company, as Simmon recalled his father’s story of how many Jamaicans fled the island during the 1970s and the resulting impact on the business sector, including the printery.
“There was a brain drain of the country, and of the four boys that were here, two migrated to look for greener pastures. That was probably one of the most difficult times for the business. You couldn’t get dollars or raw materials, and I heard it was a hard time to do business in Jamaica,” he said in an interview with the Duquesnays at 14 East Avenue, which remains the company’s operating base today.
“Then when I came into the business there was the Finsac meltdown. Annual reports used to be one of our biggest sellers, and then all these institutions went under and people were cutting back. Fast-forward to the crisis in 2007-2008,” Simmon recounted.
“But we survived,” he said, adding that while anybody can run a business in good times, the real test is whether the head of a company can steer the business through bad times.
Today, Lithographic’s operations comprise four divisions: its core offset printing service, a flexible folding carton department for packaging contracts with brands such as Foska Oats and Seprod Margarine; T-shirt printing; and an outdoor solution division that provides vehicle, wholesale branding, corporate building signage, and other services. The company now employs 110 workers.
Lithographic’s diversification into other segments of the printing industry began roughly 15 years ago and has been overseen by the third generation of Duquesnays –Simmon, Sean, and brothers Shane and Ryan.
Like many family-owned businesses, the boys spent their summer days doing small jobs around the office, and later, after completing university studies, stepped into management roles at the company.
Sean has also invested in business on his own, through acquisition of an advertising agency, Lindo FCB, in 2014.
Having spent more than 13 years helping his father, Robin, in building Lithographic, Sean now holds the post of managing director, while his cousin, Shane, the son of Patrick, has been named director of sales in line with his years of service to the company.
Ryan, who is also Patrick’s son, currently holds the post of director in the business.
Aside from spearheading the implementation of Lithographic’s diversification strategy, the third-generation business heads last year pumped US$500,000 into label printing capabilities as they look to expand Lithographic’s customer base outside of Jamaica.
The directors project that the new business line will rake in revenue in excess of 30 per cent of the company’s current revenue stream, while also allowing them to compete with at least two other foreign-owned printing companies operating in Jamaica.
Over the next year, Lithographic is targeting US$1 million in sales from local companies in the bottling, baking, and pharmaceutical industries with the label printing service, before securing contracts in places such as Cayman Islands, Grenada, and Bermuda.
The Duquesnays also plans on leveraging relationships the company already has with over 500 corporations through its acquisition of a 50 per cent stake in event management and execution company, Production Resource Systems (PRS), aimed at further diversifying its revenue stream.
Lithographic is ultimately positioning to become a one-stop shop for event-planning customers.
“All of the things that we wanted for this business have come through and we believe that the pillars of our success are quality, service, delivery and commitment. Our fathers were known for those qualities and we’ve built on it,” Sean told the Financial Gleaner.
The Duquesnays are focused on further expansion of the printing operation, with the acquisition of a property across from its office, which should allow for PRS and a warehouse facility Lithographic has on Ashenhiem Road, to be housed under one roof.
They are expecting to finance that plan with equity capital through the listing of Lithographic on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. But that, they say, is at least three years away.
Their more immediate focus is acquiring a majority stake in another business that does signage, to be financed with a mix of cash and debt.
“We want to be in the billboard space, but for us to start by putting up billboards one by one makes no sense. But with the acquisition, we could have all location at once. We do everything else, including large format but we don’t have any billboard rental options,” Sean said.
The Duquesnays declined to comment on the size of the company but wants to grow it by 30 per cent by the time they are ready to list on the market.