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Graffiti Managing Director Alan Harris
A Man with A Plan Who Gets the Job Done
Driven, geared for success, unafraid of hard work, always ready to prove the majority wrong and a man who puts people front and centre no matter what – is probably the best way to describe Graffiti Group Managing Director, Alan Harris. That and he is an open book – what you see is what you get.
Leaving his sporting interests behind and exiting the ladies gym that he started in Sandton, Harris joined the Graffiti team in 2000. He quickly began to familiarise himself with the workings of the marketing services company best known as the pioneers of South African vehicle and fleet branding. Never remaining stagnant in one position, Harris retained and mastered several titles as he worked his way up the chain or responsibility. From overseeing students, to Project Manager, Operations Manager and then Director, Harris says the fact that he worked his way from the bottom to the top in 13 years, gives him a real advantage. He understands the challenges and possibilities of the entire business and this approach certainly prepared him for his current leadership position.
“I knew in month one of joining Graffiti that one day I would run this business. It may sound arrogant but it wasn’t. Instead it was an innate belief fuelled by my passion for the industry and my desire to grow and achieve my personal career goals,” says Harris.
As a business that started with a small screen printer and cutting machine but outsourced all its digital printing, the company has leapfrogged the competition when it comes to technology. Today Graffiti owns the only EFI Vutek GS525OLXr Printer in South Africa and on the continent. An investment that has literally changed the face of big branding locally; the company can now offer faster, greener, more cost effective printing solutions, using a broader spectrum of substrates. The new printer boasts 10 colours, including white channels and has set new quality benchmarks for digital printing.
The operational side of the business is not straight forward, given the sheer volume of vehicles that Graffiti manages over a month: “On the vehicle branding side we do between 1000 and 1500 vehicles each month and we have had to be innovative to deliver efficiency and ensure we can meet demands. Add to this that when you brand a vehicle you are working on what is often the second biggest investment that person will ever make in an asset – there’s no room for error. You have one chance to get it right. Because of this our IP is geared for less mistakes and in ways that reduce application issues. But this can eat into creativity and innovation so this presents an interesting challenge for our business.”
When asked how effective vehicle branding really is from a marketing point of view Harris says that it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get a branding message out to a large audience. “But the bottom line for clients is of course return on investment as an average branded vehicle can range from R1,500 to R15,000 which will give you a minimum of three years exposure, so do the maths. Research has indicated that vehicle branding is the cheapest form of advertising.
“A good example is our own experience at Graffiti; we took three VW Beetle cars and branded them 13 years ago. The perception people had was that there were 40 or more vehicles carrying our branding! The branding is eye catching and mobile; it also protects the vehicles from the elements, and can be repaired quickly if damaged. Today Graffiti has its own fleet of 16 jeeps countrywide and we get between 5 and 15 enquiries per day, which has contributed substantially to our success.”
“We are not just about vehicle branding though: our Retail Division has gained great traction – interior and exterior branding solutions gives client options they often don’t consider. Corporate or SME offices invariably don’t utilize their own space. Wall paper prints or signage are visual mediums that can not only enhance the office environment but give prime ‘canvas’ to use for the benefit of promoting one’s company’s services further. Our building and boundary wraps are truly spectacular! We boast one of the biggest building wraps in Africa, 8000sqm of mesh print, with proud previous advertisers like Jonny Walker and Nike who utilised this platform during the 2010 World Cup,” adds Harris.
The best business advice Harris has ever been given includes “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and “People cannot be motivated, you need to create an environment where people are motivated” With this in mind, Harris has shaped a workplace that feeds off creativity and innovation and tries hard to inspire and encourage staff to always stretch themselves to achieve their personal and professional targets. Two of his favourite business quotes include: “Don’t react – respond,” and “Don’t listen with the intent to answer. Listen with the intent to listen.” According to Harris, you need to seek first to understand, then be understood (7 habits of Highly Effective People)
Harris believes that success means different things for different people and everyone achieves it in their own way. For him, the journey is about working hard, being willing to learn and realising that EQ is more important than IQ. A positive person by nature, he refuses to get sucked into negative thinking and believes happiness is a choice. “Life always throws you curve balls but it’s what you do with them that counts,” says Harris. His wife, his two beautiful children, and running the Graffiti business are personal bests; achievements he is most proud of and he says it’s his family that inspires him and keeps his head in the game. He also makes sure that he allocates no less than 20 minutes to reading some form of literature every day.
While Harris is positive about the future he is also conscious that South Africa has been affected by the economic downturn. “I think we’ll feel it a lot more over the next 12 months, particularly with vehicle sales slightly down. We will adjust our model and increase our sales force of foot soldiers here in South Africa. However we also see great potential across the rest of Africa as infrastructure is introduced. Currently around 10% of our business is outside South Africa but I expect that to increase substantially in the coming years.”
Harris has good reason to remain excited about the future and it seems Graffiti’s efforts are well-received: Harris says that the company has had great interest from similar branding companies in the USA, Australia and the UK, particularly given the number of vehicles it can complete in a day and this all ties-in nicely with the company philosophy: “Graffiti is an exciting, innovative brand and we are leaders in our field and looking for great branding opportunities for our clients.”
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Graffiti is a creative, young at heart marketing services company in the business of high-impact, head turning branding. Graffiti Retail Solutions is a division of Graffiti and was established four years ago in an effort to diversify the Group’s services and offer clients a truly integrated Graffiti branding service. Unlike the Vehicle Branding divisions which put Graffiti on the map, this division caters to the corporate and retail industry and produces customized fixed indoor and outdoor branding solutions.
Drafted and distributed by SIMONSAYS communications on behalf of Graffiti:
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