24 Mar ‘Just married’ – Sign Pro (Mar ’23)
It’s official now. The Daddy Kate Group is entering into close partnership with Publi-FDM. Have a meeting in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, near Brussels with Thijs Claes – CEO of Daddy Kate – and with Franky De Meyer of Publi-FDM. Growth market, sustainability and scaling. Are these the drivers?
Getting clear. Had planned an interview with Franky from Publi-FDM for last edition of SignPro. Was then postponed. I contacted back in early January and it was postponed again. On 6 February, it became clear why. The Daddy Kate Group is entering into close collaboration with Publi-FDM, active in visual communication, print and sign, display and packaging. This gives the Daddy Kate Group participation in five companies. Including, Daddy Kate France and Belgium, Comith, a communications company based in Affligem, and Cartim, a printing company based in Ghent. Publi-FDM is the most recent partner, the fifth in a row.
Thijs Claes, greets me and we step into his office.
Thijs: “We started as a real family business Claes Printing in 1978. Active in the commercial printing market. We took over a number of companies and grew. In 2013, I became CEO of Daddy Kate Belgium. More acquisitions followed and we got bigger. Today we have an annual turnover of 50 million euros, we have a large market share, things are going well and we also have good prospects for this year.”
Where is the difference for you between ‘taking over’ or ‘investing in’?
Thijs: “In a takeover, we really take over the company. We close the company and transfer the machines, the customers and also the people to Daddy Kate. As a result, our team consists, on the one hand, of employees from printing companies we have taken over in the past (including the Roels, Claes, Poot, PAG, DV3, ArtePrint, Beukeleirs, Becquart, Dumoulin and Carte Blanche printing companies…) and, of course, of new employees.”
“When we invest in a company with the Daddy Kate Group, we ensure that each company can maintain its own momentum and focus. I see this rather as building a network with partners. Possibly active in different market segments, a different service or with different products. That individuality is important to me, as well as to them. That direct cooperation with its own autonomy is reinforcing. And it makes for a less unwieldy structure. Efficient, direct and flat in terms of structure”.
Franky De Meyer – Publi-FDM on the left and Thijs Claes – Daddy Kate on the right in Daddy Kate’s production department.
The LFP market, sign and print has long been on your wishlist. Ticked off now?
Thijs: “We have been active in the LFP market since 2018. Then we installed several large-format printers, cutting tables and plotters. Daddy Kate was ‘a priori’ a commercial printer, a ‘paper company’, A4, A3, A2, … That first expansion into LFP was part of a full-service offering to our customers: retailers, advertising agencies and communication companies. And yes, that ran fast. Our LFP printers were full in terms of orders after barely two months. Last month, we installed a brand new HP Indigo 100K Digital Press, which is now also running full force. That’s nice. Expanding supply, more production… but then you hit the limits: knowledge, expertise, experience in specific materials, substrates, procedures, recycling, processing, editing and reuse. You look out and search, where can I find that expertise? Franky De Meyer, founder of Publi-FDM was the best partner for this. Speaking of ‘just married’, he took the initiative, ‘just in time’ “.
The new HP Indigo 100K Digital Press in action.
Publi-FDM: And now? I ask.
Franky: “Right, I took the initiative. The scale and challenges towards sustainability made me want to ‘keep banging on’. Thijs and his team are a good sounding board, they feel the market. I had long been looking for a partner who could add value. In that respect, this is ‘a gem’, we complement each other nicely. I also wanted to work with someone from the ‘graphics sector’ and not a financial investment group. Daddy Kate is also in France, also a growth market for me and Publi-FDM. Indeed, a collaboration is almost like a marriage, we look to the future together. The ‘human match’ is and remains important. I currently employ 35 people. The Publi-FDM team and the existing webshops will continue to exist. So we continue to offer tailor-made solutions, face-to-face. But in addition, we also offer options to quickly deliver ‘standard’ material on-line. 60% of our orders are custom-made. Publi-FDM customers are of interest to Daddy Kate and vice versa. Publi-FDM remains a separate entity, we retain our visual identity and DNA. But as part of the Daddy Kate Group. Developing business together and looking beyond, that is our first goal now.”
Thijs adds, “Everyone talks about the synergy benefits when two companies work together. But there are also synergy disadvantages, which are mainly when you merge a company and merge different business cultures. If those companies continue to work autonomously alongside each other, you avoid that. The collaboration with Publi-FDM will mainly impact my time commitment as CEO, not the operation of Daddy Kate, which remains virtually unaffected.
What after the honeymoon?
Franky: “I got a lot of positive feedback from my team. Colleagues spontaneously searched for Daddy Kate on google. And there was also a reassurance. Until now, I was the only business manager, without an associate. Now I can say: I’ll never walk alone…”
Thijs: “It has to grow organically. We now organise visiting moments at Publi-FDM and Daddy Kate so that the teams get to know each other better. That on a collegiate level and of course on an operational, technical and commercial level. We will continue to do that at least four times a year.”
So what makes Publi-FDM so important?
Franky: “In 2015, as a marketer, I started Publi-FDM. With a focus on visual communication, full service, from design to finishing. Production, achieving turnover and delivering quality, that was the first priority. But today the ecological aspect, sustainability and recycling is also a parameter, especially in the LFP market. Recycling of paper and cardboard is a fact. That is going well. But if you look at sheet material, dibond, forex or PVC you get a different picture. A lot of retailers and brand-owners today make their demands: no more PVC and they ask me how they can recycle their POS materials, banners, flags or sinew cloths. That was the trigger for me to launch FDM-Green Textiles in May 2022. A service where materials printed by us are recycled into new raw materials. A circular process. That too fits perfectly into Daddy Kate’s strategy and that’s how we become stronger together.”
Thijs adds, “We have been recycling paper and cardboard for years and aim for CO2 neutrality. The goal is to achieve that by 2024. In the LFP market, this is even more important and within 10 years it may become mandatory” says Thijs, “we are already stepping in together with Publi-FDM.”
For customers, everything remains the same and for both companies this is a win-win situation.
Publi-FDM can use Daddy Kate’s financial and strategic support. And Daddy Kate can use Publi-FDM’s expertise in LFP and sustainability. The perfect marriage then, right?