Barry Twigg had a vision for the ultimate customer focused business. To ensure staff shared that philosophy, he created a culture that enabled them to share in its success
Either by accident or design, every company develops its own business culture and in my experience it’s the dream of every big company executive to run their own company. This desire is not just to be free from ‘group think’ and the constant pressure to achieve short term performance targets, but also to have the freedom to develop their own ideas and philosophies: their own business culture. This is just one of the reasons I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity by Bruce McInnes (now Kite Packaging) to acquire National Flexible prior to the takeover of the (now defunct) Charles Baynes Group.
Having started work at 15 years of age, I have been fortunate enough to have managed companies in construction materials, engineering and latterly packaging for large corporate organisations. This was all great business experience, but deep down is the idea that you could do the job better given 100 percent control.
I always felt it would be great to spend more time developing all our people’s skills – and not just the chosen few. Getting to know customers better, being as supportive as possible and becoming part of their team, whilst at the same time spending more time with suppliers to appreciate what we could do for them and not simply what they could do for us.
Whilst it is great for the manager to have these ideas to be successful, everyone in the business needed not only to share them but also put them into practice. I also recognised if this was going to happen, there had to be some long-term benefits of this culture for those people working in the business. All this was some 25 years ago and whilst the ideas seemed relatively simple at the time it took many years and lots of positive actions to make them a reality. Some of the things we have done.
Share ownership: Initially after the MBO everyone was given a chance to buy shares in the business. By increasing the number of shares sold over time through sharing profits with ‘Employees’ they now own 75 percent of the business.
Pension plan: Everyone has a SIPP. Their group SIPP then took out a mortgage for the premises. The ‘Employees’ now own the premises and the company pays them £150k PA rent. A new £1 million extension is being funded by the ‘employees’.
Personal Development and training: The business has a continuous investment programme in ‘Employees’ at every level using internal workshops along with consultants and external courses.
Customer Champions: Each customer has a designated Customer Champion who visits regularly. The CC is responsible for order administration and proactively keeping their customers aware of new materials and industry information. They become part of the customer’s team.
Print & Film Technical Workshops: are provided FOC for the customers’ staff to keep them up to date on best practice. Over 400 customers’ staff have attended.
The Academy: This considers the current role of plastic in packaging and takes a holistic view of plastic packaging alternatives and opportunities. In one year, over 150 customers’ staff have attended. Mutual Capital Investments: A 100 percent delivery guarantee, plus free packaging audits, are part of the customer quality package.
All key suppliers are visited regularly and together we consider any problems they may have and seek continual improvements.
Feedback: A constant dialogue is maintained to keep suppliers informed of progress on all trails and quotes.
Presentations: Suppliers are invited to give us in-house presentations on what we can do better for them.
These actions and many others are designed to promulgate a culture of care for each other, our customers and our supplies. As in all things, we have our failures but there is little doubt that everyone involved ‘feels the difference’ as a result of having this culture to drive all our decision making.