This year has been a big year for work anniversaries at Bakers. In the first of a series of “close up and personal” introductions to our senior members of staff, we’d like to start with Paul Sykes, our Production Manager who marked 25 years with us earlier this year.
Paul has seen a constant career progression from starting in despatch in 1994, to a becoming a Baker Materials slitter operator then supervisor and then Materials Manager and on to his current position of Baker Labels Production Manager that he’s held since 2011. However, he is quick to point out that if you were to judge him as a text-book production manager you’d probably wonder if he knew what he was doing!
“Alongside managing production my day can involve training and supporting our team of supervisors; staffing problems; press and machine issues – so booking in engineers; purchasing and pricing queries and negotiations across all departments from planning to materials; organising maintenance on the roof or even managing car parking issues. Things can change rapidly during a working day and I need to be ready to react to different situations. I’ve picked up a lot over the last 25 years about label production but really a major part of my job is getting the team to do the good work. My strength is ‘people and flow’ and I’m like a meerkat, always listening and looking out for escalating situations. Keeping people positive and happy is key though; staff are more productive that way.”
It’s clear to those that work with him that being Bakers’ Production Manager is more than just a job to Paul, he’s put his heart and soul into the role.
Commercial Manager Jamie Doogan says of Paul, “I’ve never met anyone that cares as much as Paul cares about staff. He is brilliant at setting up a department and have people in the departments that really suit their role and make the dynamics of the department work. He is unbelievable at keeping everything going. He’s like a machine – great at flow. He has this urgency that’s required in a business. He spots danger and things that could happen that could go wrong so he’s very good at the day to day, getting the job done.”
In an industry that has seen numerous print companies close their doors over that last decade or so, Bakers has bucked the trend and grown while still remaining a family business. Having been with the Company through the most successful decades, Paul is able to point out key moments that made the difference.
“Moving into digital printing in 2006 was massive. We were one of the first UK label printers to do it and that made a huge impact. It was an exciting time and the current move into digital flexible packaging with BakPac feels the same. Moving to the new factory in Brentwood in 2011 was another turning point. We outgrew the factory in Walthamstow, and we operate differently now. We wouldn’t have the success we have now if we were still in the old place. We have a different way of working now that wouldn’t work there. We never sit back after a successful week or month, we want to push push push all the time. We’re here to produce labels and we work hard to get the orders in and get the machines running.” Paul is more aware than most of how times have changed when it comes to managing the highs and lows of a busy factory. “I am very passionate about Bakers. I’ve been here 25 years and any successes or failures I feel very personally.”
Recruiting, interviewing and training staff at Bakers has been part of Paul’s role for a long time so he has become skilled at quickly recognising when someone is going to fit. When asked what qualities make the right staff for Bakers, Paul doesn’t hesitate:
“I want people with hunger. We like to push people, so we need them to be able to adapt and who also give 100%. Those that do will be given opportunities to go a long way because we’ll invest in them and I’ll give them 200% back. Enthusiasm and effort are always rewarded, and people will go far here if they want it. In other companies, people are just a number but at Bakers we know our staff and we have time for them – that’s the difference. Steve’s parents Roy and Marian Baker, who founded the company, started the ethos of investing time in staff. I had huge respect for them and because of them, I’ve been emotionally invested in the business since joining. In turn, the support that Mandy and Steve have given me and everyone else over the years has been very special – they’re very special people.”
The feeling is mutual and on making Paul Production Manager Steve Baker says, “I knew I could count on Paul to step up. I trusted him 100% and knowing that I have that loyalty from him is just massive. It’s the most important thing. Paul’s strength has always been getting the work out. He understands that the best managers make sure the people working for them know what they’re doing and that’s what he does. What’s brilliant about Paul is that he’s always looking to bring people on, push them and encourage them.”
Paul is keen to point out how much he has learned about business from Steve,
“I’ve learned so much from him over the years, particularly when it comes to negotiations in purchasing. I love it and get a massive buzz from negotiating and could do it day in day out. When negotiating for the company I treat every £1 like my own so if I can save something for the company and I think it’s better for us to have it I’ll make it happen. The best result though is when both parties are happy enough with the end result and there’s future potential for us going forward and being able to build on that. Bakers has a fantastic reputation, we’re 100% genuine and our customers see that.”
Paul has worked closely with Bakers’ Commercial Manager Jamie Doogan for over a decade and some would say the combination of the two of them is a perfect balance. Not only that, they’re like brothers.
“Jamie and I have been senior managers together since 2011 and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to work together. I love him like a brother, and we have a way of working together and an understanding. We treat this Company as if it’s our own and I know the value of the trust Steve and Mandy have in the two of us – it’s priceless and we’ve earned that.”
Fortunately, Jamie feels the same way “I am definitely the customer person and Paul is the production guy and that’s why it works well. I will make promises to customers that are impossible and then Paul will somehow make it happen. That’s why it works so well. We both recognise each other’s strengths. We’ve both learned from Steve the value in keeping it simple and having integrity in what we do otherwise people can see through it straight away. Paul can sleep well at night because he has integrity. With Paul I have absolute trust. He fits in this business, in this Company and he has my trust and loyalty.”
Loyalty and trust are so valued at Bakers that Paul is just one of many long-term employees at Bakers celebrating landmark anniversaries this year. However, the long-term future looks bright as with recent expansion at the business in Brentwood there has been a steady recruitment of youngsters into the “Bakers Academy” program. It’s not just at the apprenticeship level Bakers has expanded, the senior management team has grown too.
“Recently with the addition of BakPac we brought in Phil Smith to the senior management team, so the dynamics have changed but we’re adapting and are moving to another level. It’s a very positive move for the Company as we move into the world of flexible packaging,” says Paul. “If Steve’s dad, Roy Baker is looking down on us now I think he’d be very proud.”