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The best decision we ever made? Taking a risk and embracing the unknown

Tim Holt, founder of Plastic Card Services, knew that taking a risk was key to survival
Tim Holt believes business owners should be prepared to innovate and try new technology

Name: Plastic Card Services
Location: Macclesfield
Employees: 55
Founded in: 1993
Tip: Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know.

The problem

When Macclesfield-based firm Plastic Card Services started out in 1993, it was created as a card brokering business. However, founders Tim Holt and Rob Nicholls discovered a gap in the market in card manufacturing. 

Both founders came from a sales environment, without any manufacturing or printing knowledge. As Tim explained, it was easier to “stick to what you’re good at” and shifting the business would be taking a risk.

The solution

Plastic Card Services looked at the market and saw an opportunity for innovation. The current card manufacturing process took over a week to complete; once artwork was finalised, it had to be made into films for clients to view. After clients had confirmed it, the artwork would be made into plates and then printed.

With their card brokering experience, the firm knew the films weren’t necessary. If clients had already signed off a design, it only made the process more cumbersome.

Tim and Rob realised that they’d need to show initiative to survive in the market – and if it wasn’t this opportunity, it would have to be another.

“The market’s always evolving,” Tim said. “You’ve got to invest or you’re going to fall by the wayside.”

The last hurdle to overcome was the practical side of manufacturing, which the firm thought was too laborious. They researched and identified what Tim described as “groundbreaking” technology, which no one else in their industry was using. With a £1m investment, they could make the process more efficient and less labour-intensive and deliver a week quicker than their competitors. 

The results

Plastic Card Services, which is now a 20-year-old company, has grown to 55 staff and an annual turnover of £6m. Taking a risk paid off.

Tim credits luck, good decision making and hard work as reasons for their success, but believes the move into manufacturing is something they should never have hesitated over.

“You’ve got to invest and go forward,” Tim said. “There’s no point in staying where you are. Look closely at your own business and see where your strengths are. And persevere with new technology, because it’s the future. We’re leading the way with that, even if it’s expensive – and bloody hard work.”

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