Pop Quiz, Monday with Damian Corney, Managing Director at Grafico Group

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business people. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you cannot learn in a classroom. We want to thank our interviewee for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz, Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?

Damian Corney

What is your job role?

Managing Director — Grafico Group

Tell us about your company?

Grafico Group was started in 2014 whilst I was studying Graphic Design @ Monash University in Melbourne. I always wanted to work for myself after noticing that it pure graphic design was a robust industry to crack, so decided to start up “Grafico” and work with family and friends.

After graduating from my degree, I kept the business going and decided to go full time into the business working from home still at that time.

Over the years we grew, added staff and moved out of the home into a small warehouse in Nth Melbourne. We soon outgrew that, and seven years ago we moved into our current much larger office/warehouse (also in North Melbourne)

Grafico is a full design, print, and signage service. We have specialty arms in vehicle wraps, and vehicle signage was completing everything from the one-off high end and exotic vehicles to full large corporate fleet rollouts.

We also have a specialty arm called “Grafico-Custom Wall Coverings” which supplied custom print self-adhesive wallpapers for commercial and residential spaces, plus we also are the distributor for a custom print mosaic tile product that we make in Italy which is a fascinating and diverse product. This side of the business has been given a large boost being featured on the popular home renovation TV show “The Block” on Channel 9.

All in all, it’s quite a mix which keeps things very interesting from day to day!

What do you love most about your job?

The diversity that it brings working with such a range of clients from small to large scale businesses from a mix of industries.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?

Working with the clients and achieving amazing outcomes whether it’s for their business or home.

How do your co-workers inspire you?

Watching them achieve success in the jobs we produce is always great. We all get a kick out of seeing our work either on the road (cars) or at various locations.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?

Being a relatively small team (15 currently), we have to keep the momentum and team dynamic fun and exciting. We’ve learnt the hard way that one team member’s attitude can affect the whole team (inc. myself) so it’s essential that we keep up a fun and exciting (yet still professional) dynamic. This year we’ve done a few team building workshop/days surround teamwork, plus we’ve also done an OH&S specific training day however it was made fun, and interesting rather than dry as that topic can be. These sorts of days allow us to switch off (as much as possible) from daily work items and focus on thinking about us as a team and how to improve the workplace.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

The biggest challenge as we’ve grown would be the addition of more staff. More staff = more challenges. We’ve grown the most in the past two years and added 3–4 additional staff. Whilst that was all great at the time, it’s come with added challenges of a greater team which I don’t think we were fully prepared for.

We’ve overcome a lot of those challenges, and the team environment has flourished since.

Another challenge would be competition in a bit of a strange industry. The signage side of the business or even the automotive vehicle wrapping side is non-regulated. There’s no ‘trade’ required to do these jobs and whilst all our team a from a signwriting trade background, it’s not necessary so we see unfortunately a lot of backyard or 1–2man operators who disrupt the industry with lack of policies, procedures making it an unfair playing ground in terms of costs associated with running a proper safe business.

We try to overlook this and focus on being the best we can with the best customer service and customer experience when working with our team to ensure there’s a clear difference when working with Grafico over the competition.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?

Get a great business coach! My business coach has changed the way we do business over the past few years. Starting the business from scratch as a one-person show, everything generally gets filled in your head and not written down. As you add staff especially more than 1–2, it’s imperative to have WRITTEN DOWN policies and procedures.

Like many small businesses, much of what our expectations were or what our policies and procedures were was not written down and subsequently not clear for staff to understand. That has been a significant change in our business. It’s made it clearer for staff and of course our management team, plus creating a better overall customer experience.

Finally, MEASURE MEASURE MEASURE. My business coach would always say you wouldn’t fly a plane without any instruments. It’s the same in business. If you’re not measuring and analysing your figures whether it be financial, sales, productivity, etc. etc. you’re flying blind and can’t improve what you don’t know is broken.

Whilst we’re not perfect, and it’s an on-going task, measuring your business has also been a significant change in thinking and allowing us to analyse better where we are really at rather than being more ‘in your head’ which doesn’t work long term especially as you grow.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?

As per above, go solo on your own, make mistakes and learn from them. Get yourself a kick-arse business coach that can help you where you may not be naturally strong, e.g., I’m a designer from the heart, not an accountant, so I learnt I need to surround myself with professionals to help me in that area of the business where possible.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:


Social Media @Grafico_WallCoverings (Wallpaper/mosaic tiles) @Grafico_AutoDisegno (Vehicle Wraps & Fleet Graphics)

@Grafico_Group (General Signage)


Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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