How two employees revitalized a company through rebranding and revitalization
It seems like a little thing, but dropping a single letter of the company’s name has led to big changes at Sydney Stone. In 2008, employees Michael Steele and Dylan Westgate purchased Sydney R. Stone from then-owner David Marsh and began the process of rebranding the company. This included the simplification of the company’s operating name, a logo and website redesign and a major push to support 24/7 online sales. Steele and Westgate also relocated the head office to accommodate a greater focus on service and technical support, including expanding the technical services team and the creation of an in-house reconditioning centre.
A Decade of Development
November 2018 marked ten years since Steele and Westgate bought Sydney Stone, and the effects of their efforts are undeniable. Sydney Stone has become an industry-leading dealer of print finishing equipment and supplies in Canada, and they have no intention of slowing down now. “We’ve been doing this a long time,” says Steele. “We know this industry and we know our customers. It gives us a lot of satisfaction to know we’re able to provide them with the best equipment and the best service.”
The shift to focussing on service and technical support could be the main reason why the new Sydney Stone has been so successful. Over the course of the past ten years, Steele and Westgate have increased the size of the technical team more than 3-fold and worked diligently to improve the efficiency and turnaround time of service calls. “We understand that downtime is costly,” says Westgate. “When a critical piece of equipment goes down, it can lead to missed deadlines, reduced efficiency and even lost revenue. To combat this, we expanded the service department, increased the amount of training our technicians receive and began offering more robust Extended Maintenance Agreements to help our customers not only control their maintenance costs, but also to protect against avoidable downtime.”
Westgate also goes on to explain the importance of Sydney Stone’s reconditioning centre: “It’s no secret that buying pre-owned equipment provides businesses with a more affordable option,” he says. “However, in the past that often meant sacrificing after-sale service and support of the machine. Our onsite rebuild center allows us to properly assess, clean and fully recondition pre-owned equipment back to its factory tolerances, guaranteeing that it is ready for the rigors of current on-demand production requirements.” Not content to stop there, Sydney Stone also ensures that all reconditioned machines come with a complete set of accessories, tools and manuals that would have been supplied with the machine when new, and even backs up their reconditioned equipment with a 100-day parts and labour guarantee. “We stand behind the equipment we sell,” says Westgate.
A Long History of Print Finishing
Company founder Sydney R. Stone began his career at the age of fourteen with a Toronto stationery printer. Stone operated one of the first Heidelberg presses in Canada, which later landed him a job as a demonstrator and installer. After serving six years in the military during World War II, he moved to selling bindery equipment, cutters and even small format presses, and in 1951 established what was then known as Sydney R. Stone & Co. Limited. Stone made large contributions to the industry and worked closely with Challenge Machinery, providing the original concept and construction of the well-known Paddy Wagon. He retired in 1980 and passed away one year later, dedicating over 50 years of his life to the print finishing industry.
After Stone's death in 1981, employees Shirley MacKay and Harry Day purchased the company from Sydney Stone's widow in 1983. In 1989, the decision to sell was clear when David Marsh (former International Marketing Manager of Computerized Cutters) showed interest in purchasing Sydney R. Stone. According to Day, "I'm very happy about Dave being the new person because he seems to be the type of person to carry on the Stone tradition".
Marsh led Sydney R. Stone into a new era with the early adoption of a website in 1993 and by beginning to import the latest equipment designed for the new and emerging world of digital print. Importing such major brands as EBA, Morgana, Challenge, Duplo and MBM, Marsh was well-known for his ability to see the future. He received numerous awards for securing Sydney. R. Stone as one of the top dealers of print finishing in Canada. “We wouldn’t be here today without David,” says Steele. “He set the tone for what Sydney Stone could be, and it’s an honour [for me and Dylan] to be able to carry on his legacy of innovation.”
In spite of all of their efforts to date, Steele and Westgate know they still have a lot of work to do. “We don’t ever want to stop getting better,” says Steele. “Whether it’s streamlining our internal processes, carrying new lines of equipment or further expanding our service capabilities, we know there’s always room for progress.”
This constant effort to improve has led to some interesting innovations, such as the development and launch of InstaFoil in 2016. "We are always looking for ways to help our customers add value for their clients and enhance profitability,” says Westgate. “With the launch of InstaFoil, printers can now offer a luxury and value-added finish with relative ease at a far lower cost than outsourcing."
In addition to the development of unique print embellishment techniques, Sydney Stone is also enthusiastic about a recent expansion to their product line. “We’re finally selling printers!” Steele exclaims happily. “We are now the Exclusive Distributor for Xanté products in Canada and could not be more excited. Their new En/Press Envelope Printer combines industry-leading DPI of 4800 with the lowest consumable cost in the market category, which allows our customers the chance to improve in-house productivity and, most importantly, increase their profits.” This focus on cost-savings and improved revenues for their customers is what sets Sydney Stone apart from their competition. “We’re not going to sell something that doesn’t make sense,” explains Steele. “Our slogan is ‘Giving Meaning to Expertise’ and we take that commitment very seriously. We consider ourselves to be a resource for our customers, not just a catalogue. We’re here to help make them more profitable.”
With a customer-centric approach and a substantial emphasis on innovation, it’s not surprising that Sydney Stone is one of the premier distributors of print finishing equipment and supplies in Canada.