Introducing packaging manufacturer and merchant to new growth strategies
Skipton-based Northern Paper Board (NPB) had been a packaging merchant for 20 years, but seven years ago it made the bold move into manufacturing. It continued to invest and in the past three years its turnover has grown from £5.4 million to £10 million. In essence, NPB’s growth strategy was to enter new markets and diversify.
With only a small team of staff, NPB’s directors worked full time meeting current demand as well as trying to take advantage of its substantial growth capacity by driving new business. It faced numerous challenges at both strategic and operational levels. A formal plan for growth was needed as well as a complementary sales strategy and management information system. On the HR front, it needed to recruit staff and build a dynamic sales team.
SREG’s mentor introduced the company to different ways of working both strategically and operationally. On the operations front, he introduced NPB to a manufacturer and arranged a site visit so NPB could experience different ways of working. For example, holding morning meetings with team leaders to share information with the rest of the business has been adopted by NPB. The company has also begun to adapt and create home-grown solutions to information management and sales development. Through its SREG mentor, NPB also visited a ‘Lean Manufacturing’ business that had utilised the services of the Management Advisory Service (MAS) as part of the Lean process to improve its bottom-line organisational performance. NPB is now studying how to formalise its lean processes as it expands the business. NPB is also learning how to empower its employees to make decisions required to drive business growth.
Through the SREG network, NPB is also working with an entrepreneur to evolve its business plan and objectives.
NPB is now putting together a 5 to 10-year business plan and detailing what is needed in terms of staff and investment to implement targeted growth. It has differentiated its current market segments and created a sector-by-sector strategy for growth and recruited two additional staff who are becoming an integral part of the team.
This is a change of approach for NPB who previously grew, then added the system and resources needed. To its historic “can do, will do” attitude, NPB has now added “how soon can we do it, and what do we need to do to make it happen faster”. Northern Paper Board was awarded ‘SME Manufacturer of the Year’ in the 2012 Yorkshire Post Business in Excellence Awards.
The best thing we have gained from SREG mentoring is that our perceptions of running a small business have been positively challenged. Although we are still an integral part of the business, we can now look at the business more strategically and we can see that this approach will pay dividends both for the company and personally.
John Curran, Director, Northern Paper Board.