A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Flexseal's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Flexseal is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Lee Pashley, managing director
Flexseal HQ
Flexseal is a 30-year-old company that designs and
manufactures the most comprehensive range of drainage
connections in the marketplace. Alongside its European
subsidiary companies, the group leads the market and supplies
infrastructure projects across the world. With a turnover of
£17 million, the company, based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire,
isn’t huge, but the value it brings to its customers and the UK’s
critical drainage infrastructure is massive. Lee Pashley became
managing director in 2015; here he explains how he’s put a
well-performing business under the microscope and invested in
some key areas to get more value than ever before.
The business will be celebrating its 30th year next year and I’ve spent the past
16 of those years in various sales roles. One of the first major challenges I faced
as managing director was defending our position in the marketplace. As market
leader serving approximately 75 to 80 per cent of the UK demand, we had
everything to lose and our direct competitors were becoming more active and more
competitive onprice.
With an already keen sense for sales and marketing, I threw myself into building
a talented team within these functions and creating a joint sales and marketing
strategy that put the customer at the heart of everything we do. I was now able to
instil this culture of “customer first” into areas of the business that had never seen
themselves as customer-facing. I wanted to ensure that everyone in the business
was empowered to make positive changes to impact on the business’s offerings
»Managing director: Lee Pashley
»Established in 1989
»Based in Barnsley, South
»Services: Design, manufacture
and supply of drainage
connections worldwide
»No. of employees: 64 in the
An internal culture movement
My reaction to this new challenge
of more aggressive competition all
started with labels on delivery boxes.
A simple despatch process used to
be hand writing the contents onto
the outside of the box using a marker
pen, a manual process that meant
every single box looked different and,
in most cases, messy, like it had been
vandalised with graffiti. I remember
thinking to myself: “Is this the image
of a market-leading company?” We
decided urgently to develop a simple
printed label that clearly showed the
contents of a box – an immediate
improvement. This may have been a
small step, but it turned out to be the
beginning of a big movement within
our organisation; I soon realised that
critiquing every process in the business
and making small improvements
wherever we could would benefit our
performance and our image in the
market and help us to differentiate
from our competitors.
We challenged every member of staff
within the company to think of ideas
for continuous improvements and
no matter how small they were, we
implemented them.
It wasn’t enough to just make the
improvements – we had to tell our
customers about them. Our previous
message out to the marketplace was
arrogant and focused on our market
leader status without telling customers
why we’re market leaders. I worked
closely with our marketing team to
improve our message. We had to
focus on all the reasons
customers continue to use Flexseal’s
products and services. The result was
a clear message of “why” followed
by a new strapline “Another way
Flexseal adds value”. The impact
of this on our customer perception
was huge and strengthened our
commercial relationships, as customers
were, for the first time, seeing
exactly how Flexseal added value to
With a firm culture now in place
that consisted of a flatter approach
to employee hierarchy and more
employee involvement in business
improvements, we had internal
driven changes covered. It was now
time to put more focus on what
our customers wanted and to learn
more from them. We created a series
of customer surveys that asked for
feedback on how they thought we
Assembly station
were, for the
first time,
seeing exactly
how Flexseal
added value
to their
Highlighting best practice
could improve our offerings to them.
This gave our teams a second stream
of ideas that were risk free because
the improvements that flowed from
them were coming in directly from our
customers, so we knew they would
have a positiveimpact.
Our innovations strategy has seen a
shift because of inbound customer
insights and feedback. Our research
and development team is more
collaborative than ever before and is
focused on developing new products
based on the needs of the market. We
ask the obvious questions: does this
product solve a real problem; is it easy
to use; will it save the installer time
This constant flow of ideas and
implementation over the past three
years has resulted in a greater level
of customer engagement, improved
customer perception, increased new
product development, improvements
to customer service, development of
new customer tools, more reliable
production processes and much more.
All of this is communicated back to our
customers through an increased level
of channels and points of contact.
Flexseal at 30
The right teams, who are passionate,
care about the business and want
to see it improve, are the drivers
behind these improvements. The
senior management team instils a
culture of rewarding successes. We
constantly celebrate these successes
with barbecues, pizza days and other
fun activities. We also celebrate the
personal milestones of our people, such
as work anniversaries andbirthdays.
Our business continues to grow despite
an increasingly competitive market and
I believe the steps we’ve taken over
the past three years have significantly
contributed to this. For this I can’t thank
our employees, suppliers and of course
our customers enough. We do and
will continue to engineer new ways of
connecting drainage and sewer pipes
with a view to constantly improving
the UK’s drainage infrastructure.
If I could distil the reasons for our
success over the past three years, it’s
down to asking the right questions,
listening and not being afraid to
Our business
continues to
grow despite
an increasingly
Quality inspection


This article was sponsored by Flexseal. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy