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Meet the business: Yorkshire Packaging Systems Ltd

Glyn Johnson, Managing Director at Yorkshire Packaging Systems Ltd talks to UMi about the business and why he recommends Digital Enterprise and Digital Knowledge Exchange. 

What is it the company does?

Yorkshire Packaging Systems are an industry-leading supplier of wrapping and packaging solutions in the UK, with more than 40 years of experience. Primarily we specialise in shrink wrapping solutions but more recently have expanded our product range to stretch wrapping machinery and stretch film. We offer a full complement of machinery, from manual to fully automatic, comprising of L Sealers, Sleeve Sealers, Side Sealers and Shrink Tunnels. We can also supply shrink wrapping systems for demanding environments such as dairies, which require stainless steel machines with waterproof electrics, as well as fully BAMA compliant lines for aerosols.

We also supply both polythene and a fully recyclable range of Bollore polyolefin plastic shrink films, including the UK's first bio-based shrink film, B-NAT. Food -safe, barrier, cross-linked, modified atmosphere, printed and ultra-thin shrink films complete the range. Whether for display or transit applications, YPS can supply the right grade of shrink film for any product.

Our shrink wrapping solutions are supported with our award-winning backup including next-day spares service, assistance from our experienced team of engineers and our comprehensive warranties and inclusive service contracts. YPS are fully BRC and safe-contractor accredited.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

As Managing Director, I would summarise my role as ‘Sales, Strategy, Spreadsheets and Solving (problems that is)’! If I’m not on the road selling our machinery (I still enjoy being hands-on with this part of the business), then I’m behind my desk crunching numbers and figures in spreadsheets or overseeing the top-level plans and directions of YPS. Occasionally I have to manage a problem or resolve a tricky situation, but thankfully we don’t get too many of these! I’d also say that my job is figuring out the ‘who, what and why’ in everything we do; I plan for what we want to achieve and I delegate the ‘how’ part of the equation to our team.

How did you come to do the work that you do?

YPS is a family business; my Dad is the founder, so I’ve grown up with and always felt a pull towards it. I studied Business at university and did my work placement at YPS, during which I well and truly ‘got the bug’ for the business. It was much smaller at the time and so I pretty much got an opportunity to try my hand in every department and in every role. Seeing all the different business functions happening in a real-life operational business fitted perfectly into my degree. After graduating I started work at YPS straight away, under the tutelage of my dad and some of the more established directors, until I was appointed M.D in 2009.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I am experiencing the toughest challenge of my career right now! After many years of continued growth, we have begun to outgrow our current premises and the time has come for us to up and move the business to a larger site. The pressure of finding a suitable facility in a perfect location along the M62 corridor, coupled with the sleepless nights we’ve had over ploughing our personal money into what will be the biggest transaction of our lives has been hard, and we’re not even close to moving day yet! Its hugely disruptive and is taking up a lot of my time at the moment, all whilst we’re in the throes of Brexit too! However, the move will pay dividends in the long run and it’s all in the context of growth, which can only be a good thing. We’ve tripled the size of the business in the last decade, which has lead to this ‘enviable problem’ of needing new premises. Onwards and upwards!

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I definitely plan to continue YPS down the path of growth. Our target is to grow by another 50% in the next five years, hence the big move, whilst maintaining our core principles of trust and integrity and exemplary customer service.

Why did you take part in Digital Enterprise or Digital Knowledge Exchange?

We identified in late 2018 that our website had some major issues that were harming our enquiry levels – it was built on a CMS platform called Craft, which was very rigid and inflexible, every time we wanted to change something it was really time-consuming and our in-house marketing colleague was struggling. Craft was also very niche - not many digital agencies in the field had much experience with it, therefore it limited our options. We really needed to re-platform to a Wordpress site, whilst also making some major structural updates such as making the main menu more user-friendly and adding in some product pages for some new machines we were beginning to sell. To top it off, we were suffering from a ‘hangover’ from a hack on our site in 2017 and the effects on our search engine rankings were still lingering. The re-platform would give us a fresh beginning and also strengthen our site structurally and technically. However, it was a really expensive undertaking. When we heard about Digital Enterprise we decided to apply for the growth voucher to help us solve these issues and thankfully we were accepted!

We did also take advantage of the Digital Knowledge Exchange programme and our marketing colleague benefitted from training days on topics as wide-ranging as Video Marketing, Getting to Grips with Google, Marketing Automation and a CRM workshop, all of which were fantastic and increased her knowledge and confidence brilliantly. Like many companies in our industry, our marketing relied for a long time only on word of mouth recommendations and the odd packaging exhibition. We only created a full-time marketing position at YPS in January 2018, so as relative ‘newbies’ we were crying out for all the help we could get! The in-house skills and knowledge we have now acquired as a result of the Digital Knowledge Exchange are invaluable and have really developed and advanced our marketing activities.

What has the Digital Enterprise or Digital Knowledge Exchange done for your business?

The Digital Growth voucher has allowed us to re-platform our website as hoped which has future-proofed our online marketing and given us more flexibility than ever before. It’s also allowed us to add additional product pages for a new range of stretch wrappers and a new e-commerce wrapping machine we launched in January 2018, so it has opened up markets for us that we were not previously targeting. Already we have hired a brand new salesman to bolster our machinery department as a result of the increased enquiry levels, who is starting with us on the 30th May. The new site is also now compatible with our CRM programme, and so contact forms and PDF brochure download details now feed directly into our leads and sales funnels, which are diverted straight to the relevant sales team member. This has hugely improved the efficiency of our internal processes.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

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. You have to learn to delegate, but always from a position of trust. As a leader you obviously have to set the tone and direction of the business but you need to listen and truly hear your team and be able to take their advice too. Use your power of veto sparingly and only when truly necessary. A company is a group of people so its always about fostering a team spirit where everybody feels valued.

Secondly, I would say that you should identify and focus on people’s strengths and give them a role that fits. Put round pegs in round holes! You should ensure that every team member has a clear focus within the overall framework of the company and is matched to a position that allows them to flourish and work to the best of their abilities.

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 else in the company? It’s your job to push everyone to be the best they can be and to inspire them. This will create a path to success.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

This is a hard question to answer, because I came into the family business and had the best guide and teacher I could ask for in my Dad. I was lucky to have so much great advice and help from him and that still continues to this day.

I guess the only other thing I would tell my younger self would be to believe in myself more, to have confidence and not let the doubts take over. Sometimes it takes someone else having faith in you before you allow yourself to believe in your ability too. A positive mental outlook really does make the world of difference! Especially in sales environments, which I have always done sales at YPS, which can be especially dog-eat-dog, a positive and resilient outlook and a dose of confidence is crucial. Oh, and I’d tell myself to ‘never stop learning’!

Why would you recommend Digital Enterprise or the Digital Knowledge Exchange?

I think they are both brilliant programmes that provide companies with skills and digital education as well as opportunities to grow and innovate. The knowledge exchange, in particular, gives your business some autonomy and makes you become more independent because you acquire so much invaluable knowledge and training, in turn you become less reliant on agencies and external marketeers overall. In our experience, we had so much conflicting advice in the past about ‘best practise’ for our website and changing Google algorithms that it was hard to know who to trust and what to believe. Now that we’ve had the opportunities to hear from some real experts and gain some knowledge first-hand without an underlying agenda we feel empowered.

I would also recommend the Digital Growth voucher because it has made a very expensive but critical project on our website possible, for which we are really grateful. The investment from DE has made a huge difference in that we are already seeing vastly improved website metrics and increased levels of good quality enquiries, as well as now getting enquiries for our new machinery ranges.

If you liked this post, please share with your friends and followers. If you are interested in digital, why not check out the Digital Enterprise Top 100, a major initiative to identify those companies that are setting an example for others to follow within the world of digital transformation. 

Abi Bentley-Cottam
Article by Abi Bentley-Cottam
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