I was asked by our team to write a blog, reflecting on the year just gone. I imagine they were looking for reflections on the packaging industry, but this has turned out to be a more personal reflection on our business; what we have achieved, what we got wrong, and where we hope to be this time next year.
I came out of 2021 with high expectations. After 3 years of very impressive growth (which is often forgotten about; I have to keep reminding myself how far we have actually come), NaturePac was targeting another high growth year. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened. We haven’t gone backwards, but we haven’t progressed with the growth goal… in terms of financial…
…However, I do feel we have grown as people and as a business… and this is what I am most proud of. We part of something amazing and on the verge of something truly incredible.
Richard, our Commercial Director, said after our Christmas party a couple of weeks ago, that in the 25 plus years he has been part of the business, this feels like the most tight nit group of people we have ever had, and we all truly care about each other and the business. I wholeheartedly agree. This is an amazing group of people to be apart of.
Doing the yearly reviews in December was a real pleasure. Everyone within Evolution and NaturePac has grown so much, both personally and within their role. I think most notably is Kate. She started this year in our warehouse as an assistant to Liam, having joined his team in April 2021. In April 2022 she made the move into our office team as a Customer Service team member. I don’t think she will mind me saying, at that time her confidence was low and this was her first customer service / sales type role. The way Kate has developed over the coming months has been nothing short of amazing. Her confidence has grown enormously, and the customers love her! In January she is progressing into a Customer Success role under our new Head of Revenue, Julia.
One of our biggest goals for 2022 was to install a sales team to back Nick up. Nick has been great at onboarding new customers, but we lacked the aftersales back up Nick needed to enable him to really flourish. It has taken us all year to ensure we get the right people for our team, however, now we are extremely excited to bring Julia on as our Head of Revenue and Anne on as an experienced Customer Success team member.
Both Julia and Anne are bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and we are all excited to learn as much as we can from them.
I would also like to think that both Richard and I have progressed, personally, this year. For both of us, it is the first time running a business. It has been a massive learning curve. However, both of us have the motto of ‘constant small improvements add up to a massive change’. We try to live by this, both personally and with our business activities.
While trying to make these improvements, we have obviously had some failings along the way… We let the team down by being away from the business for too long while we are renovating the offices. I also onboarded a new Warehouse Management Software System at the beginning of the year, which turned out to be completely wrong for our business. However, without failings the learning may have taken longer. We now have a lovely place to work, and we have onboarded a new WMS system which has increased our efficiencies beyond what we could have imagined 12 – 18 months ago.
We did also get, I believe, many things right, and over the last three years been able to double the size of the business.
At NaturePac, we are always trying to do right by the environment, and to this end, Richard has been the driving force behind our biggest achievement this year… As a business we are now Carbon Negative and all of our products are Carbon Neutral.
We have achieved this by calculating our carbon footprint, both for our business activities and for our products, from cradle to grave, and then offsetting the carbon by buying UN Approved carbon credits. We have learnt a lot from this process. We now have the information to enable us to reduce the carbon footprint of our business activities where possible. We also have a greater understanding of which products are better for the environment, from a carbon point of view.
We have learnt there is a massive difference in the type of carbon credits available to purchase. We would have loved to have brought Carbon Capture credits. These are credits issued by projects who are capturing carbon directly from the atmosphere. However, these credits are extremely expensive and most projects are selling the credits which would mature in several years time (could even be 10 years plus). At NaturePac we always believe it is better to do something than wait to be able to do it perfectly. Therefore, we have purchased Carbon Avoidance credits, because at the moment these are the most financially viable. We would hope in the coming years, along with reducing our carbon footprint, to also purchase a mixture of types of carbon credits… We will be blogging about this in more detail in the coming weeks.
On a personal level, what I have found most difficult this year, is trying to balance ‘work’ and home life. I put work in commas because I’m not sure I really think of running our family business as work. I love what I do. I never wake up in the morning wishing I didn’t need to go to work. I am also in a very privileged position that I only need to go into the office four days a week. This gives me extra time to enjoy my family (my wife and our two boys, currently 1 year old and 2 years old). However, I struggle to be ‘present’ some of the time. Running a business where my family and our employee’s families rely on it to pay their bills brings with it an enormous amount of pressure. A pressure that I believe is a privilege, but nonetheless brings a lot of stress and so consequently I never really ‘switch off’. My wife is helping me get better at it, as are the boys, and also having the back up of a great team helps more than they know.
In November, together with the family, we managed a trip up to a special place in Scotland. A place which Harrie, my wife, and I visited before we had the boys and hold dear in our hearts. It was great to share this with them this year… and even better that, for a few hours, I had no signal and so no distractions. This was my favourite moment of the year.
Last week we were also lucky enough to get lost in the Christmas excitement of Centreparcs! Seeing the boys enjoy themselves so much means the world and just confirms how important it is to be present no matter what you are doing.
This is something I will be continuing to work on.
As for NaturePac, our aim is to be the supplier our customers can rely on. Not just to ensure their packaging supplies get to them for when they need them, but also for all their sustainability advice and knowing that the products they get from us are as sustainable as possible. We will continue to strive to be the best we can. If we do this I will be extremely proud of what we have built.
Until next time…