Never give up on your dreams!

By Steve Flory, Hudson Group

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 Suffolk Director Magazine, Autumn 2021

Sharing Experience: Hudson Signs

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.

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 have the best clients you could wish for.

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!

ITFC: Supporting the Tractor Boys

As a business based in Suffolk, the Hudson Group team is passionate about Ipswich Town Football Club.

Sales Director Tom Wright grew up supporting the Tractor Boys and I have enough miles under the bonnet to have watched Ipswich win the FA Cup in 1978 and conquer Europe in 1981.

Recently, we were very proud to be part of a major project to improve the appearance of the Cobbold Stand, which runs alongside Portman Road.

Before, there was ugly peeling ‘frosted’ vinyl on the windows. Now, we have made and installed an eye-catching mural running the length of the stand, telling the story of Ipswich Town’s amazing history and trophy success since the club formed in 1878.

Made up of 18 individual designs, each with seven separate vinyl segments matching the windows, there are 126 segments, all which needed precise fitting by our specialist Hudson Group vinyl team.

So we could carry out the work, we got the necessary permission from Ipswich Borough Council to close off the Portman Road pavement for five days, to create the amazing result that you see today.

The mural celebrates all aspects of Ipswich Town’s glorious past – and gives a nod to the future. There is recognition of Sir Alf Ramsey and his League title-winning side of 1961-62, and of course Sir Bobby Robson, who led Ipswich to FA Cup and UEFA Cup success. Manager and player George Burley, who secured promotion to the Premier League after a famous Wembley play-off final in 2000, is also remembered.

Steve Flory is MD of Hudson Group
T: 07879 493517
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