Duplo: Business Development Manager to Launch Leader


Peter tells us his Duplo story going from BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER "E.P." to PRODUCT LAUNCH LEADER

What year did you start working for Duplo and how did you find the job?

Well the title “EP” stands for Electronic Print, a term that predates Digital Print so that gives you an idea of how long I have been here!  

After graduating University in ’87 I worked in a small design company making “special purpose machines”. It maybe difficult to believe, but in the 80’s the majority of digital print was on fanfold paper with tractor holes at the side and we got involved with companies trying to make cheques and poll tax booklets from a new breed of cut sheet printers.  It was through working in this area that our company became involved with Xerox UK and their initiative to form the Partners Group, a collection of companies producing software and hardware that complemented cut sheet printing.  Another member was PFI (now Duplo UK) who were also developing different kits and gadgets for connecting booklet makers to Xerox copiers. By 1993 it seemed to me that PFI could use somebody with more technical knowledge and experience of this area of printing, so I badgered Philip (Robin’s, Duplo's Chairman & CEO's older brother) until they gave me a chance to present my ideas and tell them why they needed me.

What attracted you to the role at Duplo?

Duplo/PFI presented an opportunity to let me use all my core skills and experience in what was a very new market with lots of potential to become something much bigger.  

Describe your Duplo career path?

At the time I joined, the international side of the business was only one export person (Dominic Q) for graphic arts and one (Mike B) for office products, each having one secretary and doing their own marketing. One of my requirements on joining was to have my own PC and for a year or so, Glyn and I were the only people in the company with a PC!  The first few years were mainly developing sales with new distributors across Europe and working on projects with the printer vendors.  This was mostly for the Set Collector that connected printers to our DC-48 then later the DBM-200 booklet makers, and smaller kits for connecting the DC-900 and DBM-100 booklet makers to Kodak copiers.  At that time I was doing all sales and technical support for anything connected to digital print, which kept me away from home for about 3 months of the year in all.  As things grew, we added Neale H, Laszlo and Rob Reid to take on more of the sales activity, then more people in Technical.

Once the first of the sheet feeders were launched in 2001 and the cutters in 2002, sales of products for digital print grew rapidly and as the company grew bigger, I was able to move more into Product Management and Sales Support and away from day-to-day sales and technical support.  As the Product Marketing team has grown and developed, I have been through roles in Development and now taking the role of guiding our great products out of the factory and working with our various teams to get them ready to sell.

What makes your job exciting?

Being a design engineer was my aim from 9 years old, and although it is many years since I worked on a drawing board (that thing we had before affordable PCs), the challenge to make a difference in the creative process turning a problem into an idea into something physical always keeps me interested.  Travel has been both a necessary pain and a delight, but I have visited many places and made friends in countries I otherwise would never have gone to.

Describe a day/week in the life of a Product Launch Leader?

One of the advantages/disadvantages of working in a business with offices around the World, is that by the time I get into the office in the morning, there is a heap of email from our colleagues around the World in Georgia, California and Tokyo; the latter of which are just finishing their day at the office.  A discussion that I may have started the day before has already been added to by the Americans and answered by the Japanese.  There will typically also be requests from a colleague or distributor for helping a sale in some country, because sometimes I have some experience or insight that will help them make the sale.

We are at an exciting time for Duplo and there are many new products in development, many in new areas on the fringe of our comfort zone.  Those still far away from completion need input and comments, channelling knowledge, experience and market research to help guide progress.  Many will be seen by the public for the first time at drupa and as we get closer to June 2020, there are applications to create, pricing and marketing strategies to develop and sales arguments to write. With such a broad product range I cannot be an expert in one area or group of products as I once was, but I am able to use my experience to try and bring together all the different aspects affecting the Technical, Marketing, Financial and Marketing teams, so that a product can be launched for sale and all the support necessary is in place to make it successful.  

As the day ends, I will be aiming to send off some final email to the Americans who are just starting their day’s work, or something for the development teams in Tokyo or Wakayama so they don’t lose a day and we can keep moving forward.

What is your biggest responsibility?

As part of the relatively small team that represents DIL to the Japanese, I have a role to play in helping steer decisions made in product development.   Fighting for what you believe in but being always ready to admit you could be wrong, standing back and see something from somebody else’s viewpoint is a big responsibility. Insisting that a particular feature is/is not included, influencing for a certain direction in development, or arguing that a target price must be met, could potentially be a big mistake and leave us with a white elephant that has taken huge investment and thousands of man hours of effort to bring to market. Fortunately I am part of a team with a broad range of knowledge and experience and we draw upon each other’s strengths.

What is the hardest part of your role?

During the ‘90s I was doing development, marketing, sales and technical support for a relatively small group of products.  I still enjoy following through a project to the end and seeing it give good service in a customer’s premises, but now our range is so wide I can’t do everything I used to and I have to stand back and let the genuine experts do what they are there for.

How much have you changed as a professional and personally since joining Duplo?

Well I was in my 20s when I joined and now in my 50s, so clearly I must have changed and become more experienced.  Certainly in my younger years I was somewhat impatient and likely to speak my mind with little hesitation, especially as no rules and guidelines had been established for writing a fax that was the first opportunity to respond quickly to something in the days before email. I like to think that at least in that area I have improved.

What is the best piece of advice that you would give to a person thinking about getting into a Product Managers role?

Develop an interest in the full life-cycle of a product, from the initial idea to the customer experience. If you can see what works well and what doesn’t and can support all the various teams involved to achieve 110%, then you are already well on your way.


Use three words to best describe yourself?

Hilarious, genius, and….. deluded

If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be?

I come from generations of gardeners and agricultural workers; doing something messy outdoors with zero modern technology would be a complete contrast.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? 

Definitely Japan.  There are typhoons and earthquakes and tsunami and volcanoes trying to kill you every day, not to mention the unbearable summers; but I have come to appreciate the beauty and character of the country - and it would be great for improving my poor Japanese language skills.

What’s your favourite film

For me the perfect mix of sci-fi, action and original creativity is ‘The Matrix’

Who is your hero?

Barnes Wallis, brilliant engineer and inventor who lived in Effingham and worked at Brooklands for much of his career

What is your biggest fear?

Apart from giant flying man-eating spiders?   Ummm……

What really makes you angry?

People who step off an escalator and then just STOP in front of you.