The print industry's youngest GM

The print industry's youngest GM
At 16, Nevada Matthews left school to forge a career in print, now at 19 he chats to AP’s Melanie Whiting about being a teenage general manager in a print business.

At nineteen years of age, InHouse Print & Design general manager Nevada Matthews is used to being overlooked. Customers who walk into the store often assume he is just an apprentice, and giving orders to staff members who are twice his age can sometimes prove challenging.

“I would be silly if I did not understand by age is a barrier,” Matthews says. “When suppliers or customers walk in and meet me for the first time they always have an astonished look on their face when they realise how young I am.” 

Though many would dismiss him due to his young age, Matthews has more experience than most and his whole life has been immersed in print. He was just a baby when his grandparents, Bob and Di Karlsson decided to start a print business underneath their family home, and at age 10 Matthews had his first taste of the industry when he was paid five cents for every box of business cards he made.

“When I was in high school if I ever got in trouble and sent home from school my punishment was to operate the folding machine at the store – which I hated,” he recalls. Although Matthews was achieving good results in high school, in year 11 he decided not to continue his education. His parents and grandparents suggested he joined the family business instead, and the rest is history.

“I started out as a factory hand because I did not know much about printing,” he explains. “Then I started learning to use all the machines in the factory and after managing the production, one thing lead to another and I am now managing the whole business.”  

Because Matthews received no formal training or qualifications, he had to learn everything there is to know about running a print business on the job, including navigating how to manage a team of 15 staff. 

“In terms of leadership skills, I learnt from my grandfather’s management style and added in a few ideas of my own,” Matthews says. “I try to encourage and inspire people to lead for themselves rather than sitting back and telling people what to do. I really like to make people think for themselves and understand they are working towards a bigger picture.

He continues, “These days my job involves business processes, growing the business and training staff. The staff here look after the customers, whereas I see my job as to look after staff. Their number one priority is the customers, and my number one priority is them.”

When InHouse started out back in 1999 underneath Bob and Di’s family home, it was your basic printer with its main work in business cards, tax invoice books and flyers. Over the years different family members have floated in and out of the business and they have moved out from underneath a house to bigger premises in Underwood, Brisbane. Today InHouse has three separate businesses – Print & Design, Publishing and Signs, with each operating independently.

Matthews played an instrumental role in assisting the business diversify into the Publishing and Signs sectors, and his future plans involve expanding InHouse into other growth markets.

While most 19-year-olds are still studying or navigating their career path, Matthews says he is working in his dream job and juggles long hours at the shop with normal teenage hobbies such as going to the gym, spending time with his girlfriend and playing Xbox. He also credits his successes to supportive family, friends and staff.

“My grandfather and grandmother have been especially encouraging, but at the same time everyone at InHouse has been extremely supportive. The reason why I do a good job is because I understand that I am not the smartest person in the place. I am only 19 and I rely a lot on other people’s expertise, I do not make all the decisions myself,” he says.

With a shortage of apprentices entering the industry, Matthews encourages young people to consider printing as a vocation, and offers this advice for those starting out: “I would suggest entering the print industry in the right way by finding a workplace that is innovative, because they say that print is declining, but it is not really declining, it is just evolving.”

Source: Australian Printer

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