Great businesses can come from anywhere - just ask Rodney Frost, Group CEO of The Lamson Group. His father, Arthur Frost, was homeless as a teenager, but was given an opportunity to sell newspapers on trams. He eventually worked his way up to selling print and in the mid 1980s brought EFTPOS to Australia.
From there, Frost established The Lamson Paragon Group as a wholesale provider with some of the people he'd met in his early career. Lamson Paragon Group originally started purely as a trade provider that supplied business forms and security print products to a range of companies across Australia.
In the 1990s, however, Arthur was approached by the banks to provide competition to the (at the time) single company that was producing cheque books in Australia. He started off a business called Cheque-Mates, and then saw another opportunity in the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2000. This caused receipts to become much longer, and Arthur created Paper Rolls Australia to fill this need. As Rodney explains, this willingness to change with the times has seen the business survive and compete.
Adapt and thrive
The Lamson Paragon Group is a prime example of a business which has had to adapt in the face of changing technologies and circumstances, and risen to this challenge at every step of the way. For example, with the decline in cheque use, Cheque-Mates has moved into high end integrated communications and automation solutions.
Rodney, who's been involved with the business ever since he was twelve but was formally taken on board when he finished school in 1997, says the changing technological landscape has been the hard part of the journey.
'We've had to adapt to the changes in technology that time has brought. This has meant we've continually had to reinvent ourselves and invest in different areas. The lessons I've learned from this really centre around the need to constantly adapt in business to ensure you remain relevant.'
'This has enabled us to succeed. We're a family business that's been running for 27 years and is still continuing to provide stable employment for people around the world. We've only been able to do this through adapting.'
The biggest challenge Gerry has faced in his business journey has been dealing with the multitude of free video conferencing services that are out there. 'So many of these freebies are grainy, the connections are pixelated and are often dropped halfway through. They don't provide any support or deliver meeting consistency,' explains Gerry. 'Yet, a lot of businesses set that as a benchmark and just accept the mediocrity because they don't know how good it can be.'
To solve this problem, Gerry decided to focus his efforts on customer service and getting to his clients' pain points. He found that as soon as new customers tried the BeingThere software and support, they immediately realised what they were missing. 'You need a good quality, robust tool that's designed specifically for business. It can't be grainy and there can't be interruptions,' says Gerry. 'Our platform has saved businesses huge amounts of time just because it operates so smoothly.'
A legend of the industry
Arthur Frost's amazing ability to adapt and seize opportunities earned him The Printing Industry’s Legend Award in 2016. This is a print industry award that commemorates those who have brought about major change in the industry. For Arthur, this was about not just bringing EFTPOS to Australia, but also magnetic stripe ticketing (the magnetic stripe that you'll find on many bus and train tickets).
The award really highlighted the impact Arthur's had and how he's given back his success to the community through his support of a number of leading charities. These have included those that help the homeless, as well as his involvement in the East Coast Eagles football club.
The TEC difference
Rodney first got involved with TEC in 2008. At the time, he'd been given valuable insight into business from his father and brother, but had no other mentorship opportunities.
'I wanted a place where I could go and learn and invest in my own personal and professional development. I didn't really know that I needed it at the time, but having a non-executive board that would hold me accountable and give me a place to present ideas and work through challenges together is something that I've found invaluable on my business journey,' said Rodney.
'I get the best value from the group sessions TEC holds. In the last few years, we've expanded our business into the Philippines, something I would never have done were it not for the support and backing of my TEC Chair at the time. He pushed me to commercialise the business model, and this has resulted in a business that not only supports Lamson Paragon Group but a range of companies across Australia.'
TEC has also helped Rodney with a broad variety of issues that come up every day when you're in business. Not only this, it's created a community that Rodney has loved being a part of. 'I've known people at TEC for eight or nine years, and we're all great friends. It's wonderful having that community.'
Established in: 1990
Industry: Print and communications.
Size: Lamson Paragon Group has eight main brands, and employs about 150 people internationally.
Markets: Over 95 per cent of the Group's customers are in Australia, the other 5 per cent are primarily in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Product Range: Lamson Paragon Group sells thousands of products, from 200 different types of paper roll to a range of custom solutions in physical and nonphysical communications.