“Our company name is also our programme,“ explained Richard Wood, managing director of High Profile, which is based in Banbury, Oxfordshire. “Because our products allow companies and brands to present their logos and slogans in 3D format on our plastic items. The task and aim of our company is to give the slogans, brands, logos and the corporate identity of promoting companies a tangible, haptically perceivable profile.“ Richard Wood is an expert in promotional products – he has been working on the British promotional products market for over 25 years.
The early years
The company’s history dates back to the early 1980s. Wood: “Banbury Plastics Ltd was set up in 1983 as a firm that produced plastic parts for the furniture and building industries – both special designs and standard items. Elegantly shaped badges and magnets especially for the pop music and motor sport markets were then added to the product line-up. I joined the company in 1986 as Sales Manager and my job was to introduce the products onto the promotional products market – at the time the annual turnover was between 80,000 and 90,000 Pounds.“
Of course things changed over the course of time: The product range was expanded, in 1987 the name High Profile was created as a brand and launched onto the promotional products market. In 1991 the company of the same name exhibited for the first time at the PSI Show in Düsseldorf. The following years were hallmarked by diverse company mergers and increased success.
Wood: “Banbury Plastics Ltd including High Profile merged with Moss Plastic Parts Ltd in the year 1990, in 1991 Bunzl Plc purchased Moss Plastic Parts. In 1992 the turnover of High Profile reached 1 mil. Pounds for the first time.“
The company flourished and expanded. The company had its own sales office in the premises of Moss Plastic Parts inEindhovenwhich was under the direction of the Sales Manager, Helene Freriks. In the years 2000 and 2001 the company also cooperated with the German manufacturer elasto form, whose products they sold exclusively in theUK.
Then, in 2001 High Profile relocated to its own building in Banbury with its own production plant. The building had a surface area of 12,000 sq ft. (approx. 3,000 m²).
“In 2002 High Profile’s turnover hit the 2 mil. Pounds mark,“ said Wood. I left the company that June, but not the promotional products industry.“
In 2003 Richard Hope-Jones became High Profile’s Managing Director. Hope-Jones, a qualified engineer, recalls: “My first job after finishing my degree at university was at High Profile, Richard Wood hired me. After a while I wanted to try something different, so I changed jobs and worked in the pump and valve industry.
I quickly noticed that hardly anything else can be as interesting, diversified, exciting and satisfying as producing promotional products.
You create an item that you can hold in your hands, which is both useful and brings the recipients enjoyment. As a manufacturer one really creates something new, which demands creativity and extensive know-how, again and again. You don’t get anywhere purely with routine in our business – and it is never boring either.“
2006 was the decisive year for High Profile in its current form and structure: Richard Wood and Richard Hope-Jones acquired High Profile from the parent company Moss Plastic Parts by means of a management buy-out. Since then Wood has been the company’s managing partner and Hope-Jones its director and partner.
Wood: “It was the best thing that could have happened to the company, because now that we are no longer dependent on the parent company we are absolutely flexible. We are small and fast and can react to our customer’s wishes and the market situation immediately.“
As part of the corporate group the decision-making processes were much longer, which limited the offer of products. “The preferred colour for industrial production is black,“ Hope-Jones pointed out. “On the promotional products market, however, a wide range of colours is of enormous importance. It is equally important that fast decisions are made as to whether a new product – whether it is a special design or a standard model – is manufactured or not. And we have to be able to offer our customers – we exclusively deliver to resellers, never to end users – an efficient and wide ranging service. This is certainly one of our strengths now, because we have short decision-making processes and no inefficiency due to over-organisation and bureaucracy.“
The figures speak for themselves: In the year of the MBO 14 employees achieved a turnover of 1.1 mil. Pounds, in 2009 the year the company exhibited at the PSI Show for the first time again after a six year break – the turnover reached the 2 mil. Pounds mark again and in 2011 it totalled almost 2.5 mil. Pounds (approx. 3.1 mil. Euros). Today, the company has a workforce of 34 people, who are employed in the production and sales departments and is planning to expand the production plant and the warehouse at their present location so that they span 20,000 sq ft. (approx. 6,000 m²).
“For us the decisive factor is that we are manufacturers and that we unite all of the essential work processes under one roof,“ emphasised Wood. This enables us to control all individual phases from the graphic design, to sample and tool construction, injection moulding, customising and quality control, through to the dispatch. We can intervene at all times and have a high degree of flexibility. This allows us to achieve a high level of reliability in terms of quality and on-time delivery and we can tell our customers exactly what is possible and what is not.“
The company’s line-up comprises of around 700 products, the innovations and designs are also presented in the annual catalogue. The standard products make up around 70% of the orders and approx. 30% are custom-made designs, i.e. product replicas. Whereby, it is quite possible that custom-made designs – such as the very successful ruler in the form of a ship – find their way into the standard programme. “We are particularly creative in the field of special designs,“ explained Hope-Jones. “For instance we recently produced a shark’s tooth as a key pendant, which was identical to an original one in shape, colour and appearance. A special comb that was also originally created as a custom-made product, has become so popular that we have added it to our main collection.“
The majority of the items are manufactured on-site, to round off our portfolio we import part of the line-up from both inside and outside the EU.
We also work together with different firms, for instance in the reflector sector we cooperate with the Danish manufacturer, Oppenheim & Janssen.
Hope-Jones: “We produce as many items as possible on-site and are manufacturers with heart and soul. We produce samples within 5 to 6 days, have our own tool-making department and our 17 injection moulding machines run 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. We colour dye dye the plastic granules ourselves, recycle 100% of the excess and waste material and even produce our own printing plates so that our customising processes are extremely flexible. Of course we dispose of all relevant customising techniques in-house: Pad, transfer and screen printing methods are available. Our own graphic design and pre-press departments support our customers in every way.“
We have large warehousing capacities both at the headquarters and externally, low minimum order quantities – special designs are available for orders volumes of 250 pieces – round off the service package.
“We want to continue to grow step by step and organically,“ is how Wood described High Profile’s future outlook.
“The market in theUKoffers plenty of opportunities for expansion, as do the remaining European markets in the EU. But we want to proceed prudently and intelligently, because our employees also have to grow with the company. To this end they receive regular training and visit the educational courses of the BPMA, the British Association.“
Richard Wood was a member of the board of the BPMA from 1998 through to 2006, and indeed even chaired the association from 1999 to 2001. Today, the company is the patron of the BPMA as well as recently being awarded official Charter status after meeting the association’s strict criteria and guidelines.
Environmental and ethical awareness and concerns are also of high importance to High Profile and it has consciously looked to develop and enhance a low carbon footprint ethos. Approximately 30% of what is manufactured in-house is made from recycled material. In addition, High Profile recently passed an Ethical Audit by an external agency and is a member of SEDEX, an organisation for businesses committed to the continuous improvement of the ethical performance of their supply chains – this is also a form of investing in the future of the business.