Creeds Printers New Ownership

Dorset printer Creeds has a new owner. Investor Tristan Phillips has bought the firm from Harry and Marilyn Harrison, who are retiring.

It’s the first time in Creeds’ 62-year history that its ownership has passed out of the founder’s family – Marilyn Harrison is the daughter of John Creed, who started the business in 1956 – but everyone involved in the transition is committed to maintaining the customer-service excellence that underpins the firm’s success.

To oversee the sale the two parties engaged Exeter brokers Beardsley Theobalds, who specialise in the transfer of companies in the commercial and industrial sectors. This decision was one of the factors that ensured a seamless handover for owners and staff and ‘business as usual’ for Creeds’ customers.

The Harrisons say they are emotional about handing over their business but are very confident about its future. “Tristan is a great guy and his attitude has put us at ease right from the start,” says Marilyn. “He’s passionate about the local community and the firm’s role within it, and the staff here are very pleased that he’s the new owner. Creeds will be the same, but better.”

Tristan, who grew up in Sherborne, Dorset, has been impressed by the Creeds ethos and the loyalty of its small team – who include two of the Harrisons’ three daughters – since he first met them all at their Christmas party last year. “The business feels like a little community,” he says. “It’s been run in a caring, thoughtful way and I’m determined to maintain that.”

Tristan has appointed a new general manager, Simon Craig, who lives in Weymouth and has wide experience with similar printing businesses. He will start his new role in early June. “As soon as I met Simon I knew he would be a good fit,” says Phillips. “He’s dedicated to providing the very best products and services, and he just gets the Creeds values. He’s really excited about getting started.”

The Harrisons will be working alongside Simon while he settles into his role, as Marilyn explains. “As well as making sure he’s familiar with all our processes, we’ll be introducing him to some customers and suppliers, helping him get to know the community.”

A clear strategy for success

Tristan says he looked at hundreds of businesses before going ahead with the purchase of Creeds. “The whole process has been straightforward – even enjoyable – thanks to Beardsley Theobalds and, of course, to Harry and Marilyn, who have been fantastic throughout. We’ve established mutual trust and become friends. They are committed to making the business a success for me, as well as for Creeds’ existing staff.

“I have a clear strategy for ensuring the continued success of the business. Obviously there’s the financial investment, but I’m also going to be working with the new general manager on performance and staff development. The people are the business, and that’s what I’m investing in; I want to give our people real opportunities to grow.”

Doing the right thing

Tristan has also bought a Devon flooring firm, which like Creeds has a long heritage and family culture. His reasons for investing in these two organisations are rooted in his own family story. “My parents used to run a painting and decorating business in Sherborne,” he says. “When my mum became terminally ill, they tried to sell the business but found they couldn’t, so it closed and their years of dedication and hard work were lost. I decided that when the time was right I would start investing in small businesses. I want to build on existing legacies – I want to do the right thing.”

Creeds moved from the village of Broadoak to its current premises on the Gore Cross Business Park, Bridport, in 2013. The business has weathered the storms of a market revolutionised by technology, in which independent printers have become increasingly rare.