Going "back to school" pays off for these Directors

All Things Business spoke to Jason Inwood, Managing Director of Woodway Packaging UK

Lots of people from the business world talk about a mentor. Do you have an influential person from your business life?

There have been many influencers over the years and my first business mentor was my father, Norman Inwood, who started the company 26 years ago. I joined Vistage which gave me access to one-to-one coaching and mentoring as well as workshops and events with other business leaders. In 2015, I went ‘back to school’ and, with the other two Directors of the business, went to Cranfield University to complete the Business Growth Program. This helped us develop a robust and strategic business plan to take Woodway UK forward.

Woodway is a huge success story, was there a defining moment when you knew the business was really going places?

When we won our first blue chip account, Panasonic, nearly 17 years ago, it was clear that we could develop into a leading supplier in the market. Once we started defining our business strategy and created our Vision, Mission and Values, we had the framework to move the business in the right direction. When the recession hit in 2009 we had to make some difficult decisions to streamline the business. Having successfully come through the other side, we were then in a position to invest in new people and create new departments such as Technical Services and Marketing. We continue to employ good people with different expertise and experience which adds to our ever evolving value proposition. It’s always positive to be recognised as a successful business and we had a double whammy last year. We won Northamptonshire Business of the Year at the SME awards and on the same night won SME Packaging Company of the Year at the UK Packaging Awards.

How would you describe the culture and the work ethic of the business?

Having been a family-owned company, Woodway UK have always had a culture of honesty, hard work and integrity with our employees. This translates into our work ethic and a huge part of our success has been the relationships we have formed and developed with customers and suppliers.

This year we have introduced a ‘One Team’ committee who are responsible for reviewing ways of improving the work environment – from reward and recognition to introducing Fun Fridays during our peak period in the run up to Christmas. This is all aimed at creating a ‘One Team’ ethos throughout the company.

What part has technology played in the development of Woodway?

Internally, technology has been vital in our development – from implementing a Financial and CRM system to help us track and analyse all aspects of the business, to investing in design software, CAD tables and digital print enabling us to produce bespoke customer samples.

Externally, technology has created the world of online shopping and omni-channel retailing.

This has had a huge positive impact on our business as everything that is ordered requires packaging to be sent out in. Ecommerce is now one of our major markets and we have a dedicated team to support that. With advancements in mobile technology and Click & Collect. Woodway UK have seen this market grow year on year. It also brings challenges, such as Black Friday, when demand for packaging increases with the uplift in online sales. This is why we work so closely with our customers and suppliers on forecasts to ensure a smooth peak period for them.

What advice would you give to the Northamptonshire business community who are looking for growth over the next 12 months?

Build a network of people you can discuss business issues with and use this to broaden your knowledge base. We only know what we know and by developing relationships outside of your own business will give you insight into how others operate, the challenges they face and how they overcome them. Everyone has doubts and challenges but be resilient and have strength of your own convictions.

If you work with integrity and build solid relationships you will have a great start point for growth.

Head Office: Earls Barton

No. of Employees: 95

Years in business: 26

Turnover: £43m