North Tyneside Business of the Year and Sustainability Award Winner 2016

Godfrey Syrett has been manufacturing furniture solutions from the same site in Killingworth for the past 70 years.

Initially set up to produce functional tables and chairs to the then burgeoning NHS of 1947, the company continues to list the NHS as an important client. However, the business also serves a whole host of other companies and organisations with its innovative range of furniture solutions.

Chances are you will have sat on a Godfrey Syrett chair or at one of their tables whether visiting your GP, at an appointment with your accountant or watching your children’s school performances. Their furniture range can now be found the length and breadth of the country.

The business was named North Tyneside Business of the Year in 2016, and was also awarded the NTBA Green Business & Sustainability award, for good reason.

We spoke to Mark Dixon, executive chairman at Godfrey Syrett to find out more about this award-winning business and its ambitious plans for the future here in North Tyneside.

You’ve been successfully manufacturing furniture for the past 70 years, what do your plans for the future hold?

Godfrey Syrett was born out of the ambition of its original founders, who spotted an opportunity and seized it; and it certainly remains a hugely ambitious organisation today.  We are looking to double our turnover over the next three years to exceed £50 million, and are confident that we have the right strategy and team in place to do so.  We have invested heavily in improved manufacturing facilities and in developing our 220-strong work force to enable us to fulfil our ambitions. Additionally, our product range is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the market.

How has the market changed over the years?

Historically, office furniture was designed with only function in mind. In today’s world, employers are increasingly looking for solutions which are not only practical, but stylish too. Our clients are also looking for designs which will have a positive impact on the welfare and wellbeing of the end user.  We are seeing a significant increase in demand for our sit/stand desks, as businesses recognise the associated benefits of staff not having to sit at a desk all day. Likewise, we are producing far more sofa-style seating areas with built in integrated electrics so that people can opt to work in relaxed, less formal environments away from their desks.

In the past, furniture in commercial and office settings was somewhat of an after-thought, but today we have dedicated design teams who work alongside architects at the initial planning stage to maximise the use of space and help create productive working environments.

Do you still manufacture your own products here in the North East?

Yes, very much so – we have a team of 220 people working for us, many of whom work on the manufacturing lines to build the furniture frames and we also have a team of talented upholsterers.  Whilst we have invested heavily in state of the art equipment in our factories, which has without a doubt significantly improved our efficiencies, we will always have a need for skilled labour too.

What career opportunities can you offer in North Tyneside?

We are committed to training and developing our workforce and have several staff who have been with us for a significant number of years.  Some of our senior members of staff started out with us as young apprentices and have grown together with the organisation.

We currently have eight young apprentices on our apprenticeship programmes in both manufacturing and administrative roles who we very much hope will become a key part of our future workforce, and we will continue to recruit more young people into apprenticeships as part of our continued plans for business growth.

Given the changing nature of the industry, we now have increased opportunities for talented designers, space planners, project managers and logistics personnel and whilst we are committed to nurturing our own, we also look to experienced personnel to enhance our team.

As well as being named North Tyneside Business of the Year, you were given the award for Green Business and Sustainability.  Tell us about some of the ways the business ensures its sustainability.

As a growing manufacturer we handle a lot of raw materials, and we believe we have a responsibility to operate in as sustainable a manner as possible. This goes way beyond meeting our statutory obligations; looking at further ways to make significant changes to how we operate.  We have invested in biomass boilers, fuelled by waste timber products to power the factory. We have introduced new packaging which can be reused up to five times before we bring it back to site to recycle; and we have invested in new fabric and wood cutting machines which are helping to reduce the amount of raw materials we use – in particular, our fabric optimisation solution has helped us reduce fabric usage by a third since it was installed last summer.  It’s an ongoing challenge for us, but one we are firmly committed to meeting.

What three words best describe the business and your products?

Passionate, innovative, creative.

Applications are now open for the North Tyneside Business Awards 2017! www.northtynesidebusinessawards.co.uk

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