Changes at Thunderbolt-New focus for an evolving market

On April 1 2014, it will be 15 years since Thunderbolt Solutions was founded by Peter van der Walt. The formation of the company was based on the Muller Martini agency, a company which had itself made sweeping changes to its representation in markets around the world. At the time, Thunderbolt was one of the very few companies around the world which was awarded the agency for Muller Martini. In most markets the decision was taken for direct representation. Anyone who remembers the Peter van der Walt of that time would attest to the fact that he was not the sort of man to be satisfied with a single agency. Thunderbolt rapidly grew and soon became the agent for KBA adding the print aspect to the existing finishing product line. Next came the addition of a service arm and before long Thunderbolt had reached the all-important milestone of 50 members of staff in three centres around the country. These were the heydays of the printing industry and Thunderbolt was riding the crest of the wave. As most of us who have been in the industry for a long time are all too aware, those days have passed and the market has undergone some radical changes. Thunderbolt is no different and with the progression of time the focus is having to change. In order to achieve this shift in focus, the company is undergoing some strategic restructuring. Peter has decided to take a more strategic view of the company and less of a daily operational role. This decision was reached some months ago, all that remained was to find the right person to take on the role of managing director. While the company conducted quiet discussions with various respected and well-known players in the industry, the focus was on keeping the status quo. As we all know, nothing gets the rumour mill and grapevine rumbling faster than talk of impending change. Although various candidates were considered, one name kept coming to the fore, Wayne Stevens. The reason for this is that just 19 months earlier Wayne had left Thunderbolt to gain valuable experience in another sector of the print industry. Peter commented, ‘Wayne just felt like the right fit for us. He knows the company, he knows our agencies, he knows our staff and more importantly, he knows our clients.’ Wayne left Thunderbolt after eight years during which time he went from consumables product manager to Sales Director responsible for overseeing all sales handled by the company across all product ranges and sectors. He joined Lebone Litho as Sales Director and worked closely with Managing Director Keith Michael. Wayne commented, ‘I have left Lebone Litho on exactly the same terms as I left Thunderbolt about 19 months ago. It was a totally amicable parting and Keith and I remain good friends. When I heard that Peter was wanting to step back, I put my name into the hat because I missed being on the front line in the equipment supplies side of the industry. This is my first love and it is where I feel the most comfortable. Thunderbolt has always had a very dear place in my heart. I am indebted to Keith for the experience because being involved in that side of the printing industry has given me some invaluable insights and will make it easier for me to relate to the needs of our clients.’ Wayne has now rejoined Thunderbolt as managing director designate. He will take over the full position of managing director at the start of Thunderbolt’s new financial year on 1 September. He will use the interim period to gain a better understanding of the company and its day-to-day operations. During this time he will work closely with Peter gradually taking over all aspects of the company’s operational functions and meeting with clients and principles to ensure a smooth transition leading up to the hand over. Wayne added, ‘Peter will take on the role of chairman which will see him taking on more of a strategic function looking for new areas of growth and finding new directions for the company and also to maintain existing relationships some of which were established more than 30 years ago. That is not to say that all visions for the future of the company will come from him. Thunderbolt has always attracted top-notch people who often bring excellent ideas and concepts to the table. I will now act as the conduit for those ideas. I will work closely with the staff to ensure that the transition is smooth and that clients continue to have the best possible relationship with Thunderbolt.’ Peter added, ‘I will definitely not be leaving Thunderbolt for the foreseeable future. This company is the culmination of my life’s work and I intend sticking with it for as long as I can. It is far too important to me to simply walk away. I will be working closely with Wayne and my other directors Gerry Baker, Des Oliver, Greg Young and Anthony Breddy to continue to grow the company and make adjustments to its direction in response to the changes and challenges presented by the industry.’ By his own admission, Wayne realises that he has some very large shoes to fill when he takes over from Peter at the beginning of September. He is confident that, with the support of staff and principles, Thunderbolt will continue to be a leading supplier to the market. Thunderbolt has grown and developed and is now a full solutions provider with equipment for all sectors of the market from prepress through to digital, conventional printing and finishing. Wayne commented, ‘We see digital printing,packaging and consumables being major growth areas and we are ideally poised with our market leading product ranges to address the needs of our clients with the right solution in these sectors. In addition, we have a strong and very capable service division. Service is becoming much more important to our clients as they try to prolong the life of their equipment. We see ourselves adressing these needs with much more focus going forward. Service is not core to our clients businesses and our roll will change dramatically in the future. Thunderbolt is now firmly set to meet the challenges of the future with a clear management structure and renewed client focus.