Rising to the challenge

Paul Travis never shies away from a challenge – be it ironman triathlons or steering a business through a global pandemic – and his work ethic has paid off in the past year

When the weather is freezing cold, and it is in the early morning, it takes a certain dedication to haul yourself out of a warm, comfortable bed, put on some trainers, and go out for a run – but Paul Travis, sales director at Keeley Travis, has this in spades as he trains for an ironman triathlon.

An ironman triathlon, for the uninitiated, involves a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 110-mile bike ride, finished off with a full 26.2-mile marathon.

“I used to do quite a bit of running but I think it was a midlife crisis – I turned 40 and decided to do triathlons,” he laughs. “After I did my first one, I was hooked – it was a really good feeling. I have built up distance since, doing the sprints, Olympics and middle-distance length triathlons; I thought I would now go up to the full distance.”

Paul had intended to undertake the ironman challenge for charity last summer but, of course, it was cancelled due to the pandemic. While he is still doing all the training required, it is not certain that it will happen this year either, but he is hopeful.

The cause is a worthy one. Paul is raising money for Marcus Allen and his family; Marcus is a boy with AADC, a rare genetic condition that affects the nervous system, which means he requires a lot of support. Paul is raising money to help ensure Marcus can access pioneering treatment; he has already raised more than £1,000 and is hoping to finish with more than £2,000.


It is this same dedication that Paul puts into his business life too. “I am ridiculously competitive, and have this burning desire to keep pushing myself,” he says. “You have to have some element of that in business.”

As sales director he has helped to lead Keeley Travis’ fightback against the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months – and has seen the company secure some of the biggest contracts in its history. “In terms of volume we have probably doubled what we did last year in managed print sales,” he says. “You might call it luck, but I believe you create your own luck. We had a large client that made acquisitions, so they had more sites. Other businesses have renewed contracts with us, and we have dealt with some internet companies and bakeries that are booming and have acquired more printers. There have been a few industries that have really grown in this pandemic, and have needed the printer infrastructure to suit.”

Keeley Travis’ preferred partner for managed print services is Konica-Minolta, although other brands’ machines are sold through the usual channels. “They were probably one of the only manufacturers that would take on a smaller dealer at the time,” says Paul. “They worked with us – they provided other local companies to help us with the service and maintenance, and supported us and enabled us to grow that side. They always give us good prices and support.”

Vindicated strategy

The contract wins also vindicate Keeley Travis’ strategy to diversify its product and service range over the past few years. “We took the hit on the traditional OP sales, but we have had some really good business on the contractual side, and there have been opportunities on the remote working side too, such as telecoms packages. I wouldn’t have liked to have just had an office products business in this pandemic.

“It has been a nice mix of different areas where we have been able to assist businesses. We have been surprised by some of the furniture projects that have happened. I think some companies have decided that, while they have an empty office, they will upgrade their furniture.

“We had already put plans in place to become non-wholesaler reliant, and we have worked hard over the last five-to-10 years to ensure that, if we do get a doomsday scenario with the likes of Spicers, Keeley Travis will continue to operate regardless, because of the other services we offer. It has been a challenge this past year, but I am proud of what we have done. The staff have adapted well to flexible and homeworking where they have needed to.”

This is a turnaround from the start of the pandemic, when Keeley Travis furloughed many of its staff and tried to reduce costs wherever they could. “It became clear after about three weeks that if we operate with the mindset that we are going to survive then, at best, you will survive. So we decided to continue to strive for growth and be more active. We brought our salespeople off furlough and have operated with a full sales team for most of the year. You have got to keep on selling – if you don’t, you’re doomed.”

Bringing change forward

Another effect of the pandemic is that it has forced Keeley Travis to reassess how it sells to clients. “We have probably focused too much on selling through the traditional models – face-to-face selling and the like; one of the weaknesses of the business has been its online presence, and that is something we are working hard to address,” Paul says.

“We have just launched ebusiness supplies, which is an evolution store, and we are going to start offering that out to our clients as a ‘one-price-fits-all’ – no bespoke pricing, just discounting across the board.”

The digital development of Keeley Travis is a key part of Paul’s plans to continue Keeley Travis’ growth in the coming years, along with plans to focus on the contract services side of the business – and he plans to recruit more people to do this.

With the company’s track record to date, and Paul’s ‘burning desire to keep pushing himself’, who would bet against them succeeding?

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