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Pacepacker 'packs punch in Europe' with packaging systems

10 May 2012

Having bought a business from a retiring owner-manager back in March 2004, and subsequently ridden the storm of another recession, even the most positive of business leaders could scarcely have hoped for the turnaround Dennis Allison has steered at Pacepacker

This niche Essex based company is now a global leader in the design and manufacture of packing systems, serving a worldwide market and employing an ever-growing workforce.

It was back in 2007 that Dennis, himself an accomplished engineer, first spotted an advertisement about a trade mission and decided to jump in with both feet and explore the opportunity which a chaperoned visit to Romania might bring.

That visit was to come at a time when EU cash seemed plentiful, and the Pacepacker range of products seemed more than capable of reaching an important new audience outside of the UK.

“Before the trade mission we had already had an initial discussion with UKTI, expressing our interest in significant export because we felt very strongly that we did not want to rely on the UK market alone,” said Dennis.

“We had ambitious expectations of ourselves – to take the percentage of our export from 14% to something more like 40 or 50%.

“Even though we had inherited several overseas agents when we took on the company, we knew that the guidance of UKTI was something we really needed, because such significant growth in export could not be achieved without a clear strategy.”

That first trade mission proved key to establishing a strong relationship with UKTI trade advisor Simon Fennelly, and to ensuring a new ally in the quest to help Pacepacker achieve its full potential as an international player in the world of bagging, packing, sealing and palletising.

A clear strategy was devised, and by the latter part of 2007 Dennis was fully immersed in the Passport to Export scheme. “Our relationship with Simon was so very important and meant we gained incredible expertise.

“I quickly learned that the people at UKTI are far from just being ‘civil service people’. Simon is himself an experienced export director and could bring to the party some first hand accounts of what to try, what not to do, the differences in approach from one international market to another – and without him, it would have just been a frustrating case of trial and error.”

Now with a turnover approaching £3million and an export ratio in the region of 30 per cent, Pacepacker is proof of how effective the various UKTI programmes can prove for a company wishing to embrace international audiences.

Dennis has been open to suggestions throughout his rapport with Simon and has now passed through the other major schemes such as OMIS, Gateway to Global Growth and the Export Communications Review.

“From my perspective, one of the really notable progressions was seeing Pacepacker adopt the findings of the Export Communications Review,” said Simon.

“That scheme is very specifically designed to make sure a business has the correct communications channels to export overseas.

“Pacepacker underwent an on-site review of their liaison methods with export markets and target customers, and the net result was that their website needed a clear new focus.

“That was something which they set to work on very quickly and the new version has been something which undoubtedly will have been better perceived by those who come to the business cold.”

Results have been witnessed in varying guises within the company.

Not only is the proportion of export so significant and the number of ‘open doors’ across the world so impressive, but the export-led growth has led to positive job creation at the Essex base.

This is something which Dennis is particularly pleased to have seen happen.

“There were difficult times in 2008 – as there were for many companies – which meant us laying off some staff,” he said.

“It was a huge blow. We had not long recruited a new wave of people, but then we were looking at the economy and thinking there could be some serious implications, so we made the heart-breaking decision to downsize until things improved.”

He continued: “Thankfully, orders then started to come in again quite swiftly, so we’ve been able to recruit again, grow our offering and bring work to some really dedicated team-focused people.”

And award accolades have bolstered that workforce unity too.

The company scooped the regional award for Most Innovative Export Strategy in the UKTI-sponsored Future Awards. That glory led to automatic submission into the national award scheme – and a second place position over all. “This was a great achievement for us and it really does help to clarify how hard we have worked to take the company through this journey.

“We’ve also just transferred our sales manager and his family to the United States, which is a bold step but a measured risk and we’re excited to see where that will lead for us.

“I know that I will be continuing the UKTI relationship because I’m well aware that there are always new things to learn and opportunities to embrace.

“Besides, we now really value Simon as someone who truly understands our team and wants to help us continue growing and achieving.”

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