OWN YOUR GROWTH
BY GG VAN ROOYEN
Start-ups aren’t the only businesses that need to pivot. Large companies often need to do it as well. The difference, though, is that pivoting a large organisation is much more complex, and the stakes are much higher. Here’s how brothers Jonathan and David Sher, together with their father Barry, have taken a R100 million family business and will reach R950 million by the end of 2017 — by manufacturing toilet paper.
Blogger and technology evangelist Robert Scoble famously said: “Change is inevitable, and the disruption it causes often brings both inconvenience and opportunity.” All businesses need to keep up with the times and evolve — even those in very traditional industries. Take for example local manufacturing firm Universal Paper & Plastics (UPP).
The company has a very long history, having been founded in 1950. It started off making things like envelopes and paper drinking straws. By 1955, however, it had found its niche when it started producing paper napkins. Over the years, UPP dabbled in other areas. As its name suggests, it also made things like plastic bags, but napkins were its core product. By the mid-2000s, though, the market had shifted. “The company wasn’t in financial trouble, but it was clear that the napkin business had reached its limit. Business was slowing down, sales were declining, and there was clearly no room for growth,” says company director David Sher. “We wanted to grow the business and not let it stagnate, and that clearly meant reinventing it.”