Glyn Johnson is managing director of Yorkshire Packaging Systems, an industry-leading supplier of wrapping and packaging solutions for businesses across the UK which recently announced it will be moving its headquarters to Brighouse.
Why did you start your business in the first place?: I didn’t start YPS, but it’s been a part of my family for decades and I have been working here for 26 years. After university, where I attained a degree in business, I did some travelling before coming back to join the family trade. It was a much smaller company back then, so I was helping my dad out with a lot of things from finance to spreadsheets. I got to try my hand at everything, but sales was where I started and that was what felt like a rite of passage for me.
What is your business motto?: “If we don’t take care of the customer, somebody else will”. We’ve won awards for customer service, and it’s an essential part of how we differentiate between our competitors. We have to look after all of our customers the same, from small enterprises to huge international clients. Our business is based on our reputation and we have to work hard to maintain that, if anything ever goes wrong, we’re the first to put our hands up and admit it, and the first to put it right. One thing I always say to customers – best in class product, best in class service, best in class value. We don’t want to get involved in a race to the bottom on price, we want to be the best by merit of our products and services.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?: There are three main things I would advise. Firstly, always trust your team. Whilst you may be able to do anything in the business, you can’t do everything. As a leader you set the tone and direction of the business, but you need to listen and truly hear your team, take their advice. Secondly, you should identify and focus on people’s strengths and give them a role that fits. Put round pegs in round holes! Finally, I would say that a business leader should always have high expectations – of your products, your people and your path as a company. If you don’t aim high, why should anyone that works for you?
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?: For us, the biggest challenge when I started was survival. The first 10 years of the company were incredibly tough when I joined, and we were fighting from one month to the next just to keep the lights on. Not only did we come out of it, but we managed to grow the business significantly from that point onwards.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?: Being self-employed you don’t have total control of your day, but you have as much control as you could ever have, and that’s very fulfilling. As far as I’m concerned, being in my position isn’t about making money, it’s about building something to be proud of. I love this company and I’ve worked to take it from almost nothing to where it is now. Seeing that progress and feeling that sense of achievement is what I enjoy most.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?: Being in the position I’m in now is a fortunate one, but what it means is that the buck stops with me, and that can be very stressful.
Which business figure do you most admire and why?: I’ve always admired Steve Jobs, he was incredibly passionate about his business, and never cared about his net worth. He never compromised on what he wanted, he was incredibly focused on making the best product and the best design and didn’t care about the price. Apple nearly went bust using a different strategy - but going back to the basics and using his philosophy turned it in to the largest company in the world.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?: There’s a long list of achievements that I’m proud of, we’ve won several customer service awards, we’ve got some great loyal customers and I have a company that I’m able to pass on to the next generation coming through. We’re currently taking big steps in reducing our use of plastic and have managed to reduce the thickness of the plastic we use by over 40 per cent. I think the single moment I’m most proud of was when we acquired a manufacturing business that was within five days of bankruptcy, with eight jobs on the line. Over four years we worked hard on it, no creditor lost money and we eventually moved it on, preserving those eight jobs. While it can’t be viewed as a commercial success, it highlights what we’re like as a company, putting people and integrity first.
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?: I plan to continue YPS down the path of growth. Our target is to grow by another 50 per cent in the next five years, hence the big move to Brighouse, whilst maintaining our core principles of trust, integrity and exemplary customer service.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?: It’s not a product but a service, we’d like to work closely with our customers to reduce their waste. We want to move away from our reliance on oil-based plastics, and help our customers recycle the waste that they create. It’s actually something that we’re putting in to practice right now.
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?: I can’t really see myself working anywhere else, but I’m still a salesman at heart. I’d love to work at somewhere like Boeing or airbus to really flex my sales muscles!