Severnside Fabrics is very successful in the world of ironer clothing and related products. Much of that success comes from the expertise of its technical staff, which is supported by a team of experienced workers covering administration and production.

On a recent visit, LCN was struck by each team member’s enthusiasm for the job, the strong identification with the business and the way everybody took great pleasure and satisfaction in helping the customer as much as possible.

Severnside is itself, of course, part of a larger international team, Andrew Industries Ltd, and Severnside’s David Neary is director of the laundry division which also includes ELP (France) and ALP (USA) helping to strengthen the international bond.

Just as the success of the group relies on its individual companies, so Severnside and David Neary recognise the value of the company’s team. Most have been with Severnside for a decade or two or even more, and with the company’s help have developed their roles from junior positions to more senior ones with greater involvement and responsibility.

But the enthusiasm is just as noticeable in those who joined more recently. Lee Parker, for instance, has been with the company six years, starting in the warehouse and later moving to sales administration.

His job now involves sales administration, working in production and, more recently, as part of the fitting team. Asked which part of his job he likes best, his response is “I like aspects of all the jobs I do.” Sales administration brings contact with customers, and on the fitting side he enjoys giving customers the service they want. “It’s satisfying when you’ve finished and they say you’ve done a good job and they’ve lost less production while it was being done than they had expected.” He talks about the speed with which the fitting team can get to the customer, even at weekends. “Even if the customer is in Scotland, we can get the felt there one day and be up to fit it the next.” In production, he sees the speed with which orders are turned round.

He’s eager to make his contribution to the company and hopes to take on some work from David Neary.

“Being director of three companies he hasn’t the time to do little things. David has pushed me through the company and if I can take on more I’m offering more back,” he adds.

Office administrator Joanne Tucker, who also works on sales administration with Lee, is in no doubt about the best part of her role – contact by telephone with the customer. “I like to think I’m the voice of Severnside for them. You build a rapport with them so you seem to know what they want and can help them.”

Joanne finds the job develops on a daily basis and every day is varied, but it’s easy to deal with that once you’re know what you’re doing.

Every day is different, says purchasing, export and sewn products manager Urmila Bakrania. The export side has grown and so has the purchasing, it’s good to know the company’s doing well.

Twenty eight years with Severnside, she enjoys the responsibility and doing her best for company and customers. Her first job is purchasing and she talks to suppliers trying to find both the best prices and the best supplier service. She makes decisions on suppliers, involving David Neary when needed.

On the export sides she sees a lot of forwarders and is responsible for the documentation. “We do whatever paperwork the customers wants.”

Her creative side and also practical experience (she joined originally as a machinist) come into play with the sewn products as she finds that she can suggest improvements to the design when needed.

Like everybody at the company, Urmila stresses the teamwork and says the personal contact with customers and the team is one of the things she enjoys most. “I’m a people person – I get on well and become friends with them. At Severnside you’re doing a job with a smile and that’s the best thing.”

Meeting challenges

Export salesman David Hartley has a slightly different angle on the customer-company relationship. For although he looks after existing accounts, he also works on developing new business. “Knocking down doors” he calls it and he loves the challenge. “Many people don’t like that but it gives me a buzz. A lot of my time has been developing new markets, such as the Middle East and India. That’s great. We get a different kind of welcome. They’re eager to learn. They’ve bought sophisticated machines and want to know how to use them.”

He continues: “We’re not just a padding company. In technical sales, you’ve got to know the products, but also much more, a bit of engineering, a bit of maintenance and so on. If I don’t know the answer, I know a man who does.

“I ask them to show me how they’re working.” Solving the problem, he explains, may lie in methods rather than the padding. Sometimes routine tasks such as waxing are done without the right equipment but “once you show them the conditioning cloth and the proper waxes, they say, ‘Hey, what’s this?’ They’re interested. They want to raise the game to European standards.”

He says the best thing about the job is meeting people in different environments, different cultures, teaching them something and then getting the order. “It’s a challenge, but you need to know when to walk away and leave them to it.”

Talk to financial controller Richard Cole and the viewpoint is naturally somewhat different from the staff who deal more directly with customer, but even here similar themes occur.

Richard joined Severnside in November 2003. Standing back from his own role, he says: “The level of service the company gives is very important. Customers ring up at 3pm and ask for a response the same day and they have a good chance of getting it. We get a lot of panic calls and the company can usually help.

“This team of people does work together very well – we can talk together and sort things out. David goes away and quite often we can keep things moving so there is less on his desk when he comes back.”

In his own role, he likes being closer to the numbers. “You know what’s been happening so when the data are pulled together and something doesn’t look quite right it’s easier to spot the cause.

“In a bigger company lots of things happen that you never find out about.”

The role of production manager is again a step back from the customer, but like those more in the front line, Steve Warfield finds satisfaction in making sure the service is as good as possible. He is responsible for making sure the felts the customer orders are cut and that the order goes out on time.

It’s important that the stock control is right and Steve enjoys making sure of this. The export side of the business is growing so he has been introducing improvements to keep the orders rolling out smoothly. “I’ve been updating the product codes to make the business easier to run,” he says. He too is enthusiastic about Severnside as an employer. “It’s a friendly company. We get on together as a team.”

One great strength of any company is its ability not just to attract good staff, but also to allow them to develop their role. David Neary values his team and is keen to encourage its development and the results are seen in the business and the staff’s enthusiasm.

But the philosophy extends in a more general direction. In July, Nicolas Klipfel, a student from Strasbourg, was there on a work placement. Such placements are not always easy for students to come by, but David Neary believes the company has a responsibility to encourage and train young people. Nicolas is doing a scientific baccalaureate – an essential qualification for French students going into higher education – and is working here to improve his English, and to see the differences in working practices between countries.

He works in the warehouse and enjoys it. “Imran who teaches me is very helpful. He goes slowly to explain clearly what to do.”

Nicolas likes the conditions. The people are friendly and easy to talk to, everybody is very nice, and the working conditions are good. In short, he confirms the view that any visitor to the company will have, that of a good and helpful team working well.