Ep6: Starting a Business After Redundancy

Andrew Songhurst, Songhurst Print

Redundancy always feels like something that happens to other people. But it can happen to any employee at any time, and bouncing back can be tough. Andrew Songhurst, founder of Songhurst Print, shares his story of successfully starting a business after redundancy.

After working for the same company for 36 years, Andrew didn’t think he would ever face redundancy. He got his first job at a local print firm after leaving school, worked hard to become a manager, and survived several company take-overs.

Until the pandemic hit in 2020 and the company suffered financially, leaving Andrew facing potential unemployment.

Andrew talks to our host about getting through it and shares his advice for anyone in the same situation. He also explains how using his extensive contacts and valuable skills gained during his career is helping set up his new business.

If you face redundancy and you’ve always wanted to start a business, or you haven’t had the confidence to leave your job and now you have to, then this is the episode for you.

Find out more about Songhurst print at https://www.songhurstprint.co.uk

We hope you enjoy this episode. Get in touch for more information on how we can support your business start-up journey.

Read the full transcript here

Announcer  (00:01):

Welcome to the outset podcast, the business startup podcast from Outset Cornwall for support and inspiration to start, run and grow your business. Here’s your host Rich Gunton.

Rich Gunton (00:15):

You’re listening to the Outset Cornwall podcast and we’re talking to Andrew Songhurst. Nice to meet you.

Andrew Songhurst (00:21):

And you too, sir. You too.

Rich Gunton (00:22):

So the overall subject area, then it’s being made redundant, I suppose. And then starting off in business, are you happy to sort of start off by talking about that kind of thing? Is that all right? And did you work for, Brewers Print? Is that right? Yes.

Andrew Songhurst (00:38):

Yeah, they were, we were Brewers when I started way back in the eighties and then it was, it became Set Office. We were bought a number of times, so it became Martin Luck. First of all, then it was Set and then it was complete business. So the business has changed hands grown a lot over the years.

Rich Gunton (00:54):

Yeah. I recognize Martin Luck. I recognize that name maybe. Well I’ve obviously been involved with Outset since the beginning for 11 years, 12 years ago. And so then you’ve gone out basically and set up your own company doing that?

Andrew Songhurst (01:07):

After being made redundant. I mean, I started when I was 18 years old at Brewers, as we were then. I got up one Sunday morning and my dad had come home from playing golf with his, with one of the partners of Brewers, and said “I’ve got you an interview on Monday morning”. So there I was, that was me for the next 36 years. I started doing that, learnt all the print and all about the business. Eventually the partners sort of saw something in me and took me forward to the more running of the business, the estimating side of things, and dealing with the customers. And then it just grew from there. And then nearly 20 years ago I was made sort of general manager. So that’s my backstory, and now I’m deciding to use all that experience I’ve got, and trying to do it for myself.

Rich Gunton (01:49):

So, maybe just going back to your time at Brewers Print then. So you were there for 36 years, is that right?

Andrew Songhurst (01:57):

Yeah, yes I joined just a week before my 18th birthday, 1984, basically as studio type setter, a ‘tea maker type’ person, doing the paste up and get an artwork ready. And at the very, very early days of digital type setting, if you like early days of word processing, there’s something called a Compugraphic power view 10 and edit writer. So it was learning all that sort of stuff. Learning how to do the paste up, the cut and paste when it was more than just a right click on a mouse, learning it from, from the bottom up. Basically I had no idea about it at all, but actually found that I quite liked it, and I was quite good at it.

Rich Gunton (02:33):

I guess that’s the thing, I mean, especially, I mean, I guess in a, in a number of industries, but certainly in kind of the print industry with the way things have changed and developed over those decades, you must’ve witnessed those sort of differences in, in media, I suppose.

Andrew Songhurst (02:48):

Yeah. A lot of things have changed. I mean, I got in just after the sort of hot metal type had gone. So I was at the very early days of the digital side of things, but yeah, I’ve seen the emergence if you like about Apple Macs. I mean, that really changed the industry completely.

Rich Gunton (03:02):

There’s a few Steve jobs movies aren’t there, but, kind of, you know, specific, shall we say he, he was with his vision and yeah, like you say, totally changed your industry, but also, you know, a number of industries in almost the way that we work. And so obviously with this podcast where we’re talking about, well, I’m not just talking about redundancy, but talking about your personal journey, but there’ll be a number of people that are listening and they’re either facing redundancy or they’ve been through it or it’s maybe a long time ago, but they still recall it. And, and you’ve obviously harnessed that experience and that journey of redundancy to set up, and develop something for yourself.

Andrew Songhurst (03:43):

Redundancy was always something that happened to other people. I mean it’s happened to my dad in the past and family. It never happened to me and I never even considered it happening to me until recently. And when it did happen, I guess it wasn’t entirely unexpected due to the pandemic, et cetera, et cetera. And now being owned by a massive company that was based in the north and being down in Cornwall, isn’t the ideal situation to be if you’re going to be a production hub. So it wasn’t completely out of the blue, but it was still a bit of a shock when, you know, when it happened, I guess it’s still kicking in. I’m still in a little bit of disbelief that really, and it was all happened quite quickly. I set up the company up and I decided to do it for myself because I’ve done it for 36 years and I don’t really know how to do anything else. So I’m going to try and use the skills that I’ve amassed and the contacts that I’ve got and try and do it for myself. I always thought that I probably could do it. Can’t walk away from a pretty good salary and when you’ve got a mortgage and two kids and you know, it’s, it’s never having the nerve to take it up, walk away from that and do it yourself.

Rich Gunton (04:52):

It is amazing how the motivation of a mortgage and kids can propel you forward quite quickly. And I mean, we’re recording this in mid February, 2021. And you were made redundant December last year, is that right?

Andrew Songhurst (05:06):

The whole department was furloughed on March the 30th of last year. So it was nearly 12 months ago. And that’s what I said, the company I’ve been trading since January, January, the first I’ve learned a lot in a short space of time.

Rich Gunton (05:19):

How different is the experience and the, you know, the business that you’re in now. I mean, well, two things I suppose, is a real challenge and good on you is one being made redundant and to setting up the business so quickly, albeit in lock down and in a pandemic sort of environment, it can only get better from here on in I promise you!

Andrew Songhurst (05:39):

We’ve said, my wife and people I’ve been talking to have said, if you can get through the first two or three months now, as the country hopefully emerges from lockdown, vaccinations and everything, then it can only get better at the moment. It’s not difficult, but it’s more difficult finding companies that are trading. There’s a lot of companies that I’m talking to you that are getting ready to come back. That lots of construction companies, haulage companies is still been trading throughout, but everyone’s been a little bit more careful with their spend and could have done it without a second lock down. Can only get better from here.

Rich Gunton (06:13):

Believe that the BBC news, at least, the future is looking a little bit better than it has been. I mean, in terms of your business now, then, I mean, if you had to sort of describe it in a sort of a 60 seconds or whatever, what is your business you’re obviously in print?

Andrew Songhurst (06:29):

I provide artwork and print solutions for all sorts of businesses across the region from business cards, letterheads leaflets, NCR pads, books, and forms, even doing all sorts of diverse things that, that I’ve not done before, like beermats, banners, site banners for a haulage company. So anything that, that you can print basically, on paper or any kind of substrate, I can do that. Going back to my early days as the studio manager, I learned the artwork side of things and using it’s nice to get back to do something more creative other than just making sure things go right and get out on time. And it’s now actually putting the whole process through. It’s nice to be back to that. So that’s the sort of thing I do offer anything that you need in print to run your business and keep it running then. That’s what we do.

Rich Gunton (07:18):

You’re listening to the Outset Cornwall podcast and we’re talking to Andrew Songhust and www.songhurstprint.co.uk. Is your website just in case anyone wants to have a, have a look. I mean, you’ve got a brilliant surname haven’t you!

Andrew Songhurst (07:37):

Well, yeah, I guess I’ll have.

Andrew Songhurst (07:43):

People tell me it’s a nice name and it certainly opened a couple of doors for me this week. Because my uncle was a fairly well known sort of a personality in west Cornwall. Quite a famous tennis player, in Penzance. He’s inadvertently opened a few doors for me as well.

Rich Gunton (08:00):

Oh, good old uncle Keith. Keith Songhurst then obviously I have to go and Google that. Yes. Yeah. As you said before, that you’re sort of focusing kind of countywide and further afield, I suppose. I mean, certainly being online, you can, you can reach a wider audience, I suppose.

Andrew Songhurst (08:15):

Yeah. I mean, well knows no bounds. No really. I mean, you can deliver anything next day, you know, relatively easily. I’ve got customers in Bristol, predominantly in this region, if you were in Glasgow and you want some printing, I’m more than happy to supply.

Rich Gunton (08:30):

Great. So, you know, going on that kind of self-employment journey then, is it something that you had in the back of your mind at all? Or was it, you always sort of felt you were in a job. That is an impressive career to be there, you know, from 18.

Andrew Songhurst (08:45):

I always thought it was going to be a job for life. When I joined, it was a family run company and you know, certainly at that age I couldn’t see anything further. Couldn’t see it further than that. But over the years, things change, you get older and you look at it and I think I could do this myself. Also I always thought a number of times, I came close a few times to doing it, but like I said, just not having the nerve to walk away from a regular wage. Now my family are a bit older, two sons, one’s nearly 18, one’s 20 working at Pendennis in Falmouth. My wife’s working. So, you know, mortgage is nearly paid off. So we’re a bit more in a better position. And of course now I’ve been forced to do as well.

Rich Gunton (09:32):

But sometimes, I mean, you only got to pick up a business book or, you know, get onto Ted talks, which I, which I adore. And you see so many entrepreneurs coming out of, you know, real, really tough homes, you know, be it redundancy, be it a recession or whatever, and this is how businesses grow and develop. Isn’t it? You know, it’s an opportune time as well to, to be glass half full, I suppose.

Andrew Songhurst (09:57):

And that’s, I’m very much that, my glass will always be half full. You know, there’s no point sitting down licking your wounds, you know, I’ve got a redundancy package. It was pittence. A lot of friends have said to me, oh, you must’ve done really well. You know, coming out with a redundancy package after 36 years. Well, no I’m afriad not, but you just got to get up and pick yourself up and do what you can. I’m going to give it a really good crack, but I truly believe that I can offer something different. I can offer really good customer service to people that personal touch whereby I’m not just a company that emails you marketing emails every five minutes, you know, I’m here to advise and to help and to work with you and make sure you get the right product. Although I obviously got to make a living, I want to make sure that you’re getting a fair price for a fair job.

Rich Gunton (10:46):

Always being self-employed. I don’t think I would ever be able to fit an employed role. I think that’s the thing is that the level of interaction and the direct interaction you can have with your customer is so different in an organization and in a small business, like you’re setting up and growing and developing, then you can, as a business grows and develops in its in its own right. And there’ll be two types of customer. There’ll be those that, you know, want an all singing, all dancing, you know, national type brand or business, and that’s great, but for every one of those people, there’s at least one, if not more businesses and individuals that will want that personal kind of one-to-one dealing with the top man or lady. And I suppose that, that answers the question in terms of, you know, why didn’t you just go out and get another job, I guess it was something that you wanted to pursue.

Andrew Songhurst (11:36):

Any decision that’s made in the business now is, is mine. I talk it over with my wife, but it is my company. It’s my decision. I’ve seen things at the business I was in. We could invest some money and do this. And these decisions were just falling on deaf ears and, you know, it’s very frustrating. Now, for good or for bad decisions will be mine. I’ll have to live and die by them myself, but at least the decision will be mine.

Rich Gunton (12:03):

Absolutely. And it’s interesting. I mean, we’ve, we’ve done another one of these podcasts with a chap called Tony Samson of Naked Solar. They’re based in Newquay and they obviously do solar panels and renewable energy. And he started on the Outset program almost when we started. So what 11 years ago, and has grown now to a team of just under 30, I believe. And he was in a sort of a similar situation, started off as an electrician, but had a very clear vision that he wanted to grow and develop it to as big as it could be. That interaction with the customer where then you have to step back and allow other people to, to come forward is, is an interesting concept of, of any organization and I think, as it grows and develops. I mean, personally I’ve always had small businesses and, you know, literally just a handful of people. So there’s always been that very front-end kind of approach, I suppose. You’re listening to the outset Cornwall podcast and we’re talking to Andrew Songhurst. If there was a fantastic job out there when you were made redundant, would you have jumped for that? Or do you believe, you know, that you’re on the right track personally, just to, just to challenge you a tiny little bit.

Andrew Songhurst (13:14):

I think I’m doing the right thing. At my point in my career, if you like my age, I’m 54. Now, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I really think that I can offer something so to people and give them a good service. I think I’ve done the right thing now. I know I’ve done the right thing.

Andrew Songhurst (13:33):

If you want to listen to me, I think you’ve absolutely done the right thing. I mean, as you would expect, I suppose I’m totally passionate about self-employment and about the sort of the, I guess the smaller scale type of business. And I think who knows what’s going to happen globally or even nationally, but you know, this pandemic has, you know, I don’t think anyone saw it coming unless you’ve seen any the movies on Netflix about pandemics. You know, I don’t think by and large anyone actually thought it was ever going to happen. And I do wonder with people working from home and with like say technology with, you know, the ones that sort of Apple and Mac and others that are available, it’s possibly now more than ever easier in some regards to reach your customer and to get that difference across, you know.

Andrew Songhurst (14:22):

I’ve used zoom so many times now. I hadn’t used it up until what, six months ago. And now I meet with clients online instead of driving all the way somewhere. You sit there with them and it’s a, one-to-one like this now. And it’s so it’s so easy. We’ve changed the way we will work and interact with clients forever. I imagine now, but at work we used to drive to Plymouth like an hour and a half on a good day to get there an hour and a half on a good day to get back again. So much time lost, not to say the carbon put into the environment, but I was an exponent then of “We can do you use a webcam, we can do some kind of video chat”, and they said no we can’t change the way work. And now here we are, the whole world’s doing it that way now.

Rich Gunton (15:06):

I mean, you’ve got to wonder where Zoom even came from existed long before the pandemic in the last couple of months, I said, that’s a whole other podcast. I mean, when I got up this morning and I was up fairly early this morning and I was looking at my calendar and looking for today and also looking at next week. And I was just thinking, actually, this is 90% of the, of the wording on there starts with zoom. And you just think if they, if they whipped it away, anyway, there we go. And so I want to come back in a minute to your, you know, talking about your, your customer, um, and for those that are listening, just so that you know, where we’re talking to Andrew Songhurst and he has set up his business Songhurst Prints, which you can find online at songhurstprint.co.uk being made redundant after 36 years. You probably go through like a mix of emotions. Anyone that’s going through that right now, is it fair to ask you what you would suggest to them?

Andrew Songhurst (16:08):

My situation might be slightly different to a lot of other people’s mean I have 36 years doing the same thing. So I know that product and that business inside out. So I basically backed myself and thought, no, I can do this and I can bring something new to customers. If you’ve been made redundant and you from a job you’ve been doing for a few weeks, and you don’t know, then I can’t possibly sort of put myself in that position. You mustn’t look at it as a kick in the teeth. It’s a setback. Yes. But you just got to get up and drag yourself forward and try and make something out of it.

Rich Gunton (16:45):

And so you’ve come through the Outset program. What, before Christmas is that right?

Andrew Songhurst (16:50):

Yes I started in October, I don’t know the exact dates now. Time has become a bit of a blur over the last few months. But yes, it’s been really helpful, in all sorts of things, company structures, how, which way to move. Mostly I think, and the biggest benefit I think I found from it is it’s given me confidence. Talk to and met loads of people, really great people online and tutors. I’ve actually done some work with other people that were on the, on the course with me. So I’ve actually done business with them. It’s getting the feedback to say, yeah, actually you do come across quite well. You do know what you’re talking about. And we do, you know, we will listen to what you’re saying. So that I found this has been the biggest thing that I guess in a lot of people in my situation, certainly like me, it was being behind the scenes rather than at the forefront of sales. It’s a confidence thing. It’s something that I’ve not really done a lot of before. So I would say it has helped me grow with confidence, I think as much as anything.

Rich Gunton (17:48):

It’s really, really interesting you know, hopefully as we get back to, you know, if there’s ever a normal life and, you know, we can run our Outset sessions where people are able to interact in, you know, physically in person as it were. And, you know, there’s so much more in that regard, you know, you are now part of a part of a family for the next step few years while we’re still funded at least. And it’s been fantastic to be able to continue on zoom as well. It sounds fantastic that you’ve, you’ve obviously worked with some of the other people on the session. So who’s been your favorite tutor then, or adviser or coach or whatever you want to call them.

Andrew Songhurst (18:28):

I’ve only really had two. I mean Amy Hassell was great, braking us all in gently and had taken us up, set us on the road if you like. So she was really, really good, really, really gentle. And that there’s no, ‘you must do this, you must do that’. It does form into like a conversational three hours that you have on the online, which is really good. And the same with Neil Roche. I was with Neil this morning, and we’re going more into the depth of marketing now and email marketing and all the pitfalls and things that you might find there. But both been very, very good. And again, it’s not like a rigid subject every day. It goes off on a tangent to help whoever’s in and there’s all sorts of different people in the courses. I mean, this morning we had a bespoke furniture maker, a couple of screen printers and a fitness studio as well. So it’s nice to look into other people’s businesses as well.

Rich Gunton (19:22):

You’re listening to the Outset Cornwall podcast and we’re talking to Andrew Songhurst. So in terms of your customers then who, you know, where are you sort of positioning yourself? Who are you going after, as it were?

Andrew Songhurst (19:34):

Any business, anybody, a startup, if you want a logo designed, or you just wanted to letter heads or some business cards or something like that, right up to the bigger haulage companies, wherever you want operational print for all my customers could be businesses large and small right across the region.

Rich Gunton (19:54):

Fantastic. All right, Andrew. Well, we’re talking to Andrew from Songhurst Print on the Outset podcast, and we’re coming towards the end now. And, and, you know, this is a sort of a common question that I ask people that take part in the podcast and have been through the process that you have been through. And, and perhaps, you know, we’ve obviously discussed the, sort of the redundancy process and, and starting up in the way that you have after such a long career with one organization, or although maybe with different hats on them or different names on them, if someone’s listening to this and, and whether they arefacing redundancy or whether they’ve perhaps been out of the labor market for a while, I don’t know, maybe they’ve had a young family or fairly longterm unemployed, or they’ve had a disability, and they’re just back on the, on the road or they’ve just had a thought or an ambition for a long period of time. And they’re listening to this podcast and they think, you know what, that’s for me, that’s what I want to do. What words of would you give them, if you could go back and say that to yourself a few months ago.

Andrew Songhurst (20:51):

Just give it a go. I mean, I was in the same job for so long. I became almost institutionalized. It really surprised to see that there were other people doing other things and all sorts of different industries. There’s a much bigger world out there. There is more out there, go out and back yourself. There’s a difference between them and us. The people that make it are the ones that are willing to give it a go. Most of us have got something in it in us to do it, I believe.

Rich Gunton (21:19):

Absolutely. And I think, yeah, give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen. And even those of us, and I, I say this from experience that been self-employed for over 20 years, we still have doubts, we still think, crikey, what are we doing the right thing? Or am I doing this right? Or am I doing that right? But I think that’s the pleasure and the beauty and the kind of the passion of self-employment, isn’t it.

Andrew Songhurst (21:41):

I don’t miss getting up really, really early to walk the dogs before I go to work in the morning. I can now do that when it’s not raining in the middle of the day, if I want to. But the other side of the thing is that I’m usually working on a Saturday on a Sunday, and I’m always here to take a phone call if anybody wants me to wherever at the time of day. But the offsets of that is that it’s my business, that means a lot to me.

Speaker 4 (22:02):

Andrew Songhurst. Thank you very, very much for taking part in the Outset Podcast.

Announcer  (22:09):

Thanks for listening to the Outset Podcast, brought to you by the Outset Cornwall program, which is funded by the European Regional Development fund HM Government and the Outset Foundation, supporting people to become self-employed and start their own business. For more information, visit outset.org/Cornwall.