During the 1920s, after returning from World War I, Oscar Selig established a local newspaper in Balmain, Sydney. This later evolved into the family printing business, Link Printing. In the late 1990s, Link Printing joined forces with Melbourne-based Craftsman Press to form IVE Group, which has since become one of Australia’s most diversified marketing and print communications companies.
At the helm of the business is IVE Group Executive Chairman – and Oscar’s grandson – Geoff Selig, who joined the business after completing his economics degree. “I didn’t necessarily think of going into the family business straight after my degree,” Geoff tells The CEO Magazine.
“I suppose being in the printing and communications industry crept up on me because it’s been in our family for nearly 100 years; I’ve had an exposure to the print sector for a long time. As it turned out, joining the business has been very rewarding and the accounting degree helped because it is one of those great degrees that is quite transportable between sectors.”
Geoff says he has developed his professional and personal skills progressively over the past 30 years within the Group. “I had the opportunity to work in various roles within the business, and what it did for me professionally was provide quite an acute understanding of the ever-changing communications landscape,” he says. Eventually, Geoff was appointed Managing Director before he was elected as Executive Chairman when IVE Group listed on the ASX in 2015.
“Over the past 20 years, we’ve made 30 acquisitions.”
IVE Group now has four main divisions: Kalido, Blue Star, IVEO and Pareto Group, and has a revenue of circa A$700 million. Kalido focuses on customer experience and offers digital services, creative concept development, customer analytics and marketing automation. Blue Star offers integrated print, point-of-sale, personalised communications and promotional products, as well as warehouse and logistics services. IVEO provides bundled solutions, packaging the Group’s range of products and services into multichannel solutions for customers. And Pareto Group delivers fundraising strategies, telephone fundraising services, and data-driven solutions for the not-for-profit sector.
Geoff remembers the time during the 1990s when the family business first saw the need to diversify from one private business to a group. “We definitely made the right decision in the late 1990s to begin the process of evolution, diversification and growth,” he says. “Had we stayed the same, I don’t think we’d have anywhere near the business that we have today.”
Geoff further acknowledges the role disruption has played in its decision to diversify. “IVE Group has been impacted, like all businesses, by digital disruption and it has presented us both opportunities and threats,” Geoff says. “Digital disruption has taken place to support the evolution and growth of our business.”
One of the things Geoff finds especially exciting is the process of acquiring other businesses. “Over the past 20 years our growth has been a combination of organic initiatives, as well as a disciplined acquisition program along the way,” he says. “It’s one thing to embark on an organic, ground-up initiative – which we’ve done plenty of over many years – but I’ve also enjoyed leading industry consolidation and rationalisation, and the mergers and acquisitions. It’s been rewarding, dealing with lots of vendors. Over the past 20 years, we’ve made 30 acquisitions, ranging from a couple of million dollars to A$100 million – and everything in between. It has been one of the elements of the industry that I’ve found very attractive outside of just marketing communications.”
Now, three-quarters of IVE Group’s revenue comes from customers dealing with more than one part of its business for printing and marketing solutions. “That told us that our move to diversify – the way we bundle products and solutions together across different channels – is truly attractive to our customer base,” Geoff says.
When IVE Group listed on the ASX, Geoff says it was a change for the business. “From our perspective, it was a different world, but the principles of how we operate our business have remained the same,” he says. “The way we run the business and the decision-making process has served us well over a long period of time, and I think » because we’ve become public, that hasn’t changed. Instead, when we make decisions, we look at what’s in the best interests of the company. And it’s about the sustainability of the business moving forward. We don’t want to get caught up in the short-term decision-making just to please any particular stakeholder group of the company.”
Keeping up with trends
While IVE Group may not have one mainline competitor, Geoff indicates that it instead has competitors in the various sectors in which it operates. “What therefore differentiates us is the power of our value proposition and the diversity of our offer; how we bundle combinations, products and services together,” he says.
“If you look at Westpac, for example, they’re a large contract of ours. We had 25 of our staff permanently based on site, managing the total marcomms category. We do a lot of creative right through to printing and direct mail for them. They have multiple touch points back into our business.”
Another leading edge is the how much the company invests back into the business. “This has resulted in an excellent asset base, which has enabled us – certainly in the more traditional manufacturing parts of our business – to be the lowest cost producer,” Geoff adds.
As IVE Group caters to a range of communication formats across multiple channels, it must keep abreast of the latest marketing and communications trends. “If you were a marketing manager 15 years ago, your whole world has been turned upside down,” Geoff explains.
“We listen to our customers, our heads of marketing, our CMOs, or our CIOs, and understand what they’re thinking. We then overlay that with our own IVE Group thinking, which our broader leadership management team has acquired across the global and domestic communications landscape. Furthermore, we’re actively involved in global conferences across the various areas of our Group, where we have exposure to the latest trends or innovations across numerous sectors. So that helps refine our thinking.”
Geoff adds that the company wants to be a leader in the communications sector. “We’ve always had a philosophy of leading and being early adopters particularly in terms of technology innovation,” he says. “But we’re not gamblers, we don’t want to be too far ahead of the curve because our customers may not be ready. We want to help companies navigate their way through what has been uncharted waters.”
Geoff has been involved in several other pursuits throughout his career. He was President of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2005 to 2008 and previously served as a Director of the Heart Foundation in New South Wales. He’s currently on the board of the Pinnacle Foundation, a charity that provides scholarships, mentoring, and support to marginalised LGBTQ youth aged 18 to 26. He also serves on the board of The Lysicrates Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that supports Australian playwrights.
Although IVE Group is no longer a family business, it still holds true to the values it had when it was. “It’s like having ‘the best of both worlds’, to use an old-fashioned phrase,” Geoff says. “We look and feel a bit like a family business even though we’re not one anymore.” The company employs around 1,800 staff throughout Australia, China, Singapore, and New Zealand. “We have a very stable workforce, and that’s a testament to the culture we have; it’s diversified and inclusive.”
IVE Group also runs an ethical business, Geoff emphasises. “We’re ethical in terms of how we operate but certainly in terms of our domestic and our Asian supply chain,” he says. “Having established an ethical supply chain in China is incredibly important for us as a company and for our customers.”
Geoff also recognises the support IVE Group receives from its partners and suppliers, such as Australia Post. “We acknowledge the value our supply partners collectively bring to our business, supporting the delivery of products and services to our customers,” he says. “Aside from ongoing competitive commercial arrangements, our long-term supply partnerships ensure continued consistency and reliability of service offering. Our relationship with Australia Post goes back decades – a relationship that’s key to the ongoing capacity of our business to perform. Through traditional mail delivery and, more recently, an expanded StarTrack Courier relationship, the partnership is more cohesive than ever.”
The company chooses to partner – both domestically and globally – only with organisations that demonstrate that they operate ethically, Geoff adds. As for IVE Group’s growth, Geoff is proud of how the company has been able to translate its practices throughout its bases overseas. “We care about our staff, and we treat them with respect. “We’ve got a really good team culture; throughout the Group, we’re aligned, and we work closely together.”
To this end, IVE Group launched its IVE Plus Program in 2014 to help employees reach their full potential. It gives workers and their families access to several initiatives covering health and wellbeing; lifestyle; wealth and security; personal, family and community matters; and diversity and inclusion (this was its most recent module, added to the program late last year). These programs provide education, awareness, and benefits for employees and in turn create a positive impact on the workplace.
IVE Group is likewise supportive of upskilling and internal promotions. “Yes, we’ve brought people in from outside, but we have a lot of people in leadership roles within the business who have been with us for a long time,” Geoff says. “So I’m a big believer in promoting from within when possible and asking people whether they require the build-up of some skills to support them in stepping into an expanded role.”
The next phase
Going forward, IVE Group plans to keep evolving its offerings. “We use the term ‘adjacency’,” Geoff says. “If you look at the evolution of the Group over the past 20 years, there’s been nothing revolutionary in it. We’ve moved into new areas that have been quite complementary to our existing business. We operate out of Asia now, but I feel that we can expand a little further – maybe globally in some parts of our business.
“And I’d like to think that in the coming years, we’ll continue our strong financial performance. This will ensure our ongoing capacity to invest back into the business and, at the end of the day, ensure we’re driving a sustainable business forward.”