Telling the truth about SME life today


You’ve got to hand it to Mike Pickles, the 50-year-old founder of box manufacturing firm Really Useful Products. The former accountant set up his West Yorkshire-based business in 1999 when he couldn’t find the right kind of storage for his files and papers. Today he employs 80 staff, pulls in sales of £14.2m and is appearing on our Hot 100 list for the fourth consecutive year. “It would be nice to make it five years on the trot!” he jokes. “The Hot 100 is a great way for us to benchmark our performance. If we hadn’t appeared on the list, we’d still be trundling along, unaware that what we’re doing is exceptional.” It doesn’t look like Really Useful Products’ meteoric growth will be slowing down any time soon. Pickles says he anticipated the credit crunch (“we do a lot of business in the States so we had a window into what was going to happen on this side of the pond”) and adapted the business model to survive the blow, cutting the firm’s product development budget from £1.8m to £250,000. “Luckily, boxes are like lipstick: people still buy them, whatever the climate,” says Pickles. With plans to push sales in the US, he reckons turnover will hit £16.5m this year.


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