Peter Street – Boxing Clever at the Cardboard Box Company
By: Graham Boyes
I was very pleased to find an excellent article in the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Industry magazine ‘Business LIFE’ about a man for whom I have a very high regard, Peter Street and his business The Cardboard Box Company.
Reproduced with kind permission:
Peter Street has had his ups and downs in more than three decades at the sharp end of the business world. But at the age of 72 his enthusiasm shows no sign of diminishing.
It’s that enthusiasm and drive that helped him fight back after the trauma of a stroke that hit him just months after he bought his present company.
And it also brought him through a massive fire that threatened the existence of his previous business back in the 1990s.
It is fair to say Peter, owner of Cardboard Box Company on the Clayton Park Enterprise Centre in Accrington, is a survivor.
“Yes, I’ve had ups and downs,” he agrees. “Whether that all makes you stronger or weaker I don’t know but it has been good fun.
“I like working and I like working with people – it’s a great motivation. We have a lot of young people in this company now. It’s great to watch them develop and grow and the keenness inspires me.”
” Technology needed to change to grow the business. We have invested about £12m and have probably got the most modern sheet plant in the country.”
“My background is the paper industry,” he explains. “I’ve been in it since I left school in 1957. This is paper and board, so it seemed logical.”
His first task was a complete modernisation. “The technology needed to change it was not conducive with trying to grow the business We have invested about £12m now and have probably got the most modern sheet plant in the country.”
The Cardboard Box Company provides a wide range of packaging, including promotional point of sale displays, for big name companies in the high street.
Peter says: “We have all the latest equipment; with my paper background we’ve surrounded it with labs. We’ve a paper testing lab, print lab, art and graphics departments and digital printing.
“There’s a lot more to this than just putting a box together. The whole company is surrounded by technical back up. That’s what gives us the edge.”
The company now has a 60-strong workforce. Turnover was just less than £3m when Peter, who lives in Langho, took over – today it’s pushing £12m.
However, things did not get off to the greatest of starts. Just seven months after buying the business Peter suffered the stroke that kept him away from his desk for 12 months.
“I’d been up in Scotland playing two rounds of golf a day, came back and was working on the outside of the house when it happened,” he recalls.
“I’m alright now; I’m working, talking to you. I play golf and travel. It was more than 13 years ago and the chances of another one are slim.
“All I thought about after it happened was what I was going to do next. I’d bought a boat a week before the stroke. I was in my hospital bed thinking about what car I wanted next to the boat. I was very positive”
That positive outlook also helped him in 1990 when a major fire put the existence of his previous business at risk. He battled through, bringing the business through the crisis and eventually selling the operation to a Finnish company.
In a long and impressive career he also built plants in Canada and worked in Holland. He was also involved in joint ventures in India and China.
Arriving at his new venture, Peter says he had to change the working culture as well as modernising the machinery.
He’s still at the sharp end, talking to the customers directly. “I wouldn’t want to lose that” he says.
“It is an old fashioned approach, talking to people, listening to what they want and responding; then making things happen when they want you to do something.”
Warming to the theme, he adds: “Business is built on service. Whatever the business, you have got to build it on that service.
“If a customer wants a box in the morning we will get it there, not because of the machinery or technology, but because the team will respond.”
He also listens to staff, taking personal pride in the working conditions he provides.
Peter still has ambition, looking to expand the company’s present 80,000 sq ft operation. He says: “It’s still fun. That’s the reason why I’m still doing it at the age of 72 and a bit.
Me and my Chamber
The Chamber is important to me and it is the general enjoyment of being in it and of meeting new people. The connections and the networking with other local businesses is also an important factor.
“The Chamber has also been very supportive to us in what we are trying to achieve here. We only joined the organisation in 2007 and I regret that we didn’t do it a long time earlier as we would have probably benefited from our membership even more.
“I signed us up after a meeting which was attended by chief executive Mike Damms. I was very impressed with him and what he had to say and that pointed us towards becoming a member.
From day one I’ve had no regrets at all about doing it. Being a Chamber member is also great for finding out what is happening out there; it’s a good source of intelligence gathering for us.