Published On: Wed, Jun 16th, 2021

Daniel Baker, Managing Director at Origin

First Job: My first job was in mechanical engineering, working for my father at his firm, Jones Baker. I was there for four years and learned so many of the fundamentals that I still rely on today.
Date of joining Origin: I joined Origin in 2010 as a non-executive director where I worked for 10 years, before being appointed as Managing Director in July 2020.
Most useful/favourite gadget: I have two that I want to mention. The first is my wheelchair. It is well engineered and extremely lightweight. The second is my iPhone and all of the apps that go with it. There really isn’t much you can’t do or find on an iPhone.
Favourite/most useful website: It has to be Google News. You can get so much information at the touch of a button, and you can maximise your time by having keywords, so I get relevant feedback and news straight away.
Business person you admire: Elon Musk – he is a disruptor and pioneer when it comes to change and innovation.
Recommended hotel for business: I like to keep my business trips as simple as possible so I would say an Ibis would be my first port of call. I like to keep the more luxury hotels for holidays.
Favourite UK restaurant: Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
Best business decision: My first good decision was first getting involved with Origin back in 2010, coming on board as a non-executive director. The second ‘best’ business decision was introducing Origin’s industry leading ‘Your Lead Time, Not Ours’ promise. We took stock of our current manufacturing processes and streamlined them, which meant our bespoke products could be delivered within just 24 hours of an order being placed. This is something that is still unrivalled within the industry today.
Other interests: Spending time with my family. With five children, ranging in age from 6 to 21, I always have something on the go. I also like studying wellbeing and putting what I read into practice. I think it is very important and find it completely fascinating. Finally, I love watching Formula 1.

Working Week: I am an early riser, so I get up at 05:00 and my day
starts at 06:00. I either use these first few hours to work from home and then drive into the office after rush hour, or I do the opposite and drive in early to beat the traffic. Given the current environment, we are working from home where possible, using video conferencing to good effect.
In general, my day is spent focusing on the direction of the business. I am very fortunate to have a fantastic leadership team, allowing my attention to be on the business, not so much on the management side of things. At around six o’clock I finish for the evening, turning my work phone off, allowing myself to switch off from the events of the day. This is crucial in making myself more effective the following day.

Working Location: In any other year I would say that I try to split my time between the factory and Origin HQ, but this has not been a normal year. I make limited factory visits to stay in line with our strict COVID protocols, so my time has been spent in the office wherever possible, or at home on occasion. Investment in systems, technology and the integration of software means that a lot more of our processes, operations and communication platforms are available online. This has made the working from home transition easier and more efficient, but I do still like the working environment the HQ offers, so I am spoilt for choice.

The Long Read…..

2020 has been a year of uncertainties, with Brexit, COVID and the US election all playing a big part in how many businesses tried to survive, and how we at Origin looked to succeed in the face of adversity.

The last 12 months have been a mixture of highs and lows, more so than any other year I can remember. Entering lockdown in March saw some door and window companies come under pressure as they didn’t have the cash reserves to survive until restrictions were eased. For Origin, we made the quick decision to hibernate for three weeks, putting the entire business on hold. Our focus became cash preservation because it was impossible to predict how long the shutdown period would last, how quickly we would be able to return to pre-COVID-19 service levels, and what post COVID-19 revenue levels would look like.

Once the restrictions were lifted by the Government, we experienced significant ‘pent up demand’. We found that the construction industry and house builders were trying to play catch up on the projects that were left unfinished before lockdown, whilst also trying to recoup some of their lost earnings capital from over the restricted period. With many of the door and window companies struggling to keep up with demand, attention turned to us. Because we had already invested heavily in keeping certain colours in stock, we could provide bespoke aluminium products on time in full, so many customers were switching to us in order to get projects back on track. Having customers rely on us to keep their businesses running was certainly a challenge, but something we were very happy to do.

In addition, because we have a commitment to our existing customers to ensure they never miss an install day, we had extra profile in storage as part of our contingency plan for Brexit. This meant we were in a strong position to keep manufacturing and delivering – something that a lot of competitors were struggling to do.

This trade demand went hand-in-hand with a shift in consumer behaviour, which caused a significant increase in home projects. Firstly, people being stuck in their homes for such a large proportion of time has prompted upgrades and improvements. Secondly, those people who would usually go on holiday but couldn’t were using this budget elsewhere, such as upgrading their patio doors.

Fortunately for us, our unique manufacturing processes, which pre-COVID-19 enabled us to deliver bespoke products in just 24 hours of ordering, were able to be adjusted to accommodate a skeleton staff and social distancing the moment restrictions eased. Whilst to begin with our lead times were slightly longer than normal, they were still the shortest in the industry. In order to return to our pre-COVID levels, the factories changed from a single shift to a two-shift pattern which got us up to full capacity quickly.

Whilst we have seen this ‘pent up demand’ tailing off, our intel shows us that the home improvement market is buoyant at the moment. In fact, we have already seen the transition to ‘real demand’ starting to take place. This is something we don’t see slowing down, certainly in the medium term, and is an exciting prospect for us.

I think we have handled the situation brilliantly. The way in which the whole team pulled together to get us operational again, and then running at significantly higher levels than we were pre-COVID, was remarkable. Is there room for improvement? Of course, there always is. But we’ve worked hard to learn lessons from the readjustment and feel better prepared than ever to kick start a new year.

With a very difficult year behind us, we plan to continue scaling up and growing the business substantially over the next 12 months. We know this isn’t going to be plain sailing, but we are focussed on establishing a fitter, leaner business with working practices that can sustain further improve our market offerings. Our factory’s two-shift pattern is now permanent so we can comply with social distancing restrictions long-term if need be. We have invested in IT to enable office staff to work from home effectively. We will also continue to be forward looking, bringing new products to market in 2021 and exploring ways to reduce our environmental impact, such as investment in a greener fleet of vehicles.

Looking forward, I want Origin to continue reaffirming its position as a leader within its field, striving to further improve its service offering, and do this whilst growing.

For me personally, I am driving Origin to scale up, whilst improving in the areas we are already known for – product quality, unrivalled lead times, and gold standard of service to our Partners. One big challenge I have is to try and make big, long term decisions for the business, even though the future is so uncertain at the moment. By looking forward we are showing commitment to our team, suppliers, partners, the industry, and homeowners, and this will stand us in good stead further down the line. These are certainly exciting times. We have had a year to forget, but with a new year comes new opportunities ready to be taken.