Always stay true to your dreams

By Steve Flory,Hudson Signs
Roughly 15 years ago a good friend of mine called and told me that Hudson Signs was closing down because the owners had moved to the States.

Published in Norfolk Director Magazine Autumn 2021
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Sharing Experience: Hudson Group

I got in my car and drove to their commercial unit, where I looked around and spoke to some of the people that worked there. Most of Hudson’s existing clients had moved to pastures new, and the annual turnover was around £250k. It was 4 o’clock on the Friday afternoon when I agreed to buy the company; an hour before it was due to close for good.

What did I know about signage? Absolutely nothing.

Always stay true to your dreams 1

So, why did I buy Hudson Signs?

Because it was the only company I had ever owned, or been involved in, that physically made anything, and that really excited me.

What did I do next? On Monday morning at 9am, I got on the phone to all the old clients and told them we were staying open. Then I called Tom Wright who had been with me at my previous business, Ansaback. I asked him if he fancied selling signage and fortunately he said yes! The rest is history.

Over the last fifteen years, we found fantastic people to work with us, and I am very proud of what we have achieved. Through hard work, initiative and occasionally flying by the seat of our pants, we have turned the business around and we now make signs to go all over the world. We clothe the workforces of many companies. We also promote companies through our gifts side, and we wrap and sign write vehicles. And, we also have the best clients you could wish for.

So, why am I writing this?

Well, like many others, we have just been through the worst period I can remember. It’s been a horrible time for the world, and it does you good sometimes, to count your blessings. Many people have lost their businesses. They will all have tried bloody hard to get through it, but forces outside their control will have stopped them. Well, we salute you and hope that you will rise again.

For us, the disruption caused by COVID-19 meant we had to review our business plans. Due to our expertise in signage, we were able to quickly pivot our operations to start making clear acrylic virus protection screens for both the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Ipswich Hospital. Orders for these screens kept our factory running, minimising the need to furlough staff.

However, our 23-year old CNC router that was being used to manufacture the screens was starting to show signs of ageing. Normally used for the production of signage, it had never been worked so hard and we soon realised that, to keep up with demand and so safeguard future production, we needed to invest in a new machine. At the same time, we wanted to purchase a ‘direct-to-garment’ printer and an OKI transfer printer, both which would give us a greater ability to retain and upsell to our existing clients.

Yet, we needed help to do this. So we applied for a grant from the New Anglia LEP’s Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, and we were delighted when we received a grant of £40,500 through the scheme, which represented 50% of the total cost of the three machines.

It only took around eight weeks from submitting our application to getting it approved and the help we received was fantastic. There is no doubt that being able to come out of Covid in a healthier position than we went in, has given us the very real prospect of growing our turnover and our client base, as well as increasing the number of people we employ. This couldn’t have been done without the financial support from the New Anglia LEP grant funding. It’s not only been good for the financial health of the company, but also for the morale of our staff.

I know that some businesses are still in this maelstrom, having been closed for many months with little or no revenue. To those what can we say, but keep up the fight and explore the opportunities that are out there to gain financial support via grants and funding. For most, we might possibly be seeing the end of the worst, but it’s still a long way to go for all of us.

However, overall, has it been hard along the way? Always a yes. But has it been worth it? Well, that’s a big fat YES!

Off to the Caribbean: Hudson’s grandest bespoke project to date

It’s funny how business has a habit of throwing curveballs at you.

There we were in the office, contemplating the unfolding Covid crisis, when a random message came through  from a gentleman claiming to be in the Caribbean, wondering if we could design, build, ship, and help erect, a huge sign for a luxurious new superyacht marina.

This would be no ordinary sign; the logo alone would be 11 metres high. The sign also needed to be designed and built from scratch, shipped to St Vincent and the Grenadines, and erected safely. It needed to withstand all weathers, including the occasional hurricane.

Oh, and could it be done in about three months?

Still surprised to be contacted out of the blue from 4,250 miles away, our contact sent us a drawing showing the scale of the lettering and the logo, featuring a pair of giant seahorses and an anchor. But there was little in the way of construction or fixing requirements. That was for us to conceive and go back with ideas.

When we landed the contract, our brilliant team went from worrying about what was going to happen to the business during the pandemic, to launching themselves into one of our largest ever projects. The factory became a hub of activity, as aluminium sheets were fashioned skilfully into lettering to piece together the words and logo, all of which were then powder coated in a pink, marine-grade paint finish.

Then we turned to the packaging and shipping of our creation. This was no easy matter, as we had assumed one container would do the job. However, it soon became clear we would need two. But, at last, everything was on its way.

The client had asked us to assist on-site with building the sign, and as it was the height of the pandemic, this played havoc with travel plans. Yet, finally, the install got underway taking a month to complete.

The final sign looks fantastic in place (See main photo above). At night, it is impressive with downlighting added by the client and it’s incredible to think our team’s work back here, will be seen and enjoyed by the world’s rich and famous as they cruise around the Caribbean.

Photos of fabrication unit and Steve Flory taken by Simply C Photography

Steve Flory is MD of Hudson Group
T: 07879 493517
E: steve@hudsongroupltd.co.uk
or visit hudsongroupltd.co.uk

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MAKING YOUR BRAND VISIBLE

Elevating your business visibility with impactful signs that really make the difference

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