Debbie Burgess Joint Managing Director, Bright Print Group

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What do you do?

I was born into the Printing Industry being the great-granddaughter of a printer turned publisher of The Biz newspaper. From a very early age I was introduced to the world of print through both my grandfather and father’s eyes. One of my earliest memories is watching my grandfather set type in a dingy, dark room with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. This was in a shed in his backyard at Fairfield. The hot metal smoldering away nearby. Definitely no work, health and safety back then.

Fast forward 50 years and I am the joint Managing Director of the Bright Print Group. The current owners are myself and my brother, John Bright. We took over from my father back in 2002. Since that time, we have grown to 3 sites in NSW and employ 100 staff.

I started my working career engaged in Law but was enticed to join the family business in my early twenties. I switched professions and graduated as an Accountant some 4 years later. Needless to say, I look after all things financial, as well as HR, legal and marketing relating to the BPG and NCP brands. Together, John and I determine the strategy that propels the BPG Group.

What investments have you made in your professional career development?

I believe deeply in the benefits of life-long learning. You simply can never know enough. To this end, I was always on the lookout for opportunities to improve my knowledge of business-related topics and skills. Some of the courses I completed were through the Institute of Management. I am a member of the Public Institute of Accountants and in the early 2000’s completed an intensive Company Directors Course through the AICD. I remain a graduate today and still complete the required CPD hours to maintain my accreditations.

When I turned 40, and my children were reasonably self-sufficient, I embarked on a part-time (one night per week), MBA through Macquarie Graduate School of Management. It took me 5 years to complete but was one of the best experiences of my life. I was totally sleep deprived, raising a family of 3 very active boys and running a company, but the knowledge learned was invaluable to the growth of the organisation and for me. Now I’m an empty-nester, I keep asking myself if I have the energy to complete a PhD!

How can the industry proactively invest in women, and why should this be a priority?

For generations, the Printing Industry has been seen as a dirty, dusty industry, only suitable to males. We know, of course, that this is no longer the case (and has never necessarily been the case) with the print industry being one of the most environmentally friendly industries globally. Back in the 1950’s my great-aunt was a lithographic printer, working with her father, who owned a suburban newspaper. She became the lithographic foreperson, and when my great-grandfather sold his business to Cumberland Newspapers, she started her own printing business, next to my grandfather’s linotype operations, in the backyard of her sister’s place in Fairfield (my grandfather and his sister lived next door to each other).

It is well-researched that women have different skills and abilities to men, particularly around multi-tasking and emotional intelligence. The diversity of skills brought by both men and women adds richness to a company that can’t otherwise be generated. Quite simply it makes good business sense to ensure your company has a diversity of abilities, skills and knowledge.

The Print and wider Graphic Industries need to invest in better marketing through social media, trade shows and school expos to encourage more girls and women into the industry. Subsidiaries could also be considered for both the employee and the employer to encourage women into traditional male industries. We need to encourage greater diversity.

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