Or should we say despite the changes. In the last decade, Barno has faced many a fiery monster, yet despite adversity has still managed to come out on top, while many manufacturing companies have simply disappeared. What force guided Barno from the prospect of a free fall into obscurity, to a thriving business, confident of its future?
For decades, two of Barno’s core product lines were cheque book covers and ring binders. In the last 8 years cheque books have virtually become obsolete. Today we rely on technology to manage 90% of our communications. The ring binder, used to neatly organise forests of documents, has reached its sell by date.
To aggravate matters, the market was flooded by cheap imports from China, leaving cost focused markets to choose between low price, mass produced items, and high quality products supplied by South African companies such as Barno. In many instances, the ‘cheapies’ secured market share and many feared they would take over entirely.
And if the erosion of core product lines and cheap imports flooding the market wasn’t enough to cope with, along came the Big R – the recession!
Yet, the Board of directors signed off an order for a multi-million rand flatbed digital printer, a significant investment at the time. Today, they have 4 digital printers running 24/7. The decision was based on the understanding that while technology had scuppered their major product lines, technology also had the potential to provide a solution to their problem.
The digital printer gave Barno a unique competitive advantage, by providing the technological capability of printing virtually onto any substrate, Barno could offer existing clients better value. By carefully listening to the market Barno matched their key competency, and recently purchased equipment, to penetrate new markets.
The threat posed by cheap Chinese imports, ironically helped to accentuate and sharply differentiate Barno’s market positioning. The market now had a clear choice. To this day, Barno offers bespoke solutions with an accent of exceptional quality and service. Barno is the preferred supplier of branded stationery and promotional items to a number of top South African and multi-national companies.
The second determining factor of Barno’s success, was leadership. Barno entered their 60th year in business, because of the Managing Directors unrelenting preoccupation for product innovation. Herman Fourie was the driving force behind the quest for technological advancement. His mind set for improvement has filtered through to every level of the business.
Herman, an experienced Chartered Accountant, has steered the ship with great skill. It’s impossible to face the challenges Barno has experienced over the course of 60 years, without great financial management, and incredible people. Affectionately known as the Barno-bees, the workers at Barno are shareholders in the business. Whether on the board, management or working in the factory, when it comes to stern tests, one can be sure that loyalty, character, commitment and the sheer will to succeed, are qualities in abundance.