Turning Points – Tim Eaves, Quadpack Industries

Turning Points – Tim Eaves, Quadpack Industries

Entrepreneur Tim Eaves explains why community spirit is at the heart of his sustainable packaging company Quadpack, and what he’s learned from triumph and disaster on the road to growth

Monday, October 15, 2018 began badly for entrepreneur Tim Eaves and his firm Quadpack Industries. A tropical storm had flooded the company’s manufacturing facility at Torelló, a small town in the Pyrenean foothills, north of Barcelona in Spain.


“Our 10,000m2factory had a metre of water in it,” he recalls. “When I arrived at seven o’clock that morning, I thought it would be impossible for us to restart work for the next six to eight months.” Yet within six weeks, the plant was back to running at full capacity. “It was all thanks to the team,” Eaves says. “They brought friends and family members to help. The clean-up operation was amazing. Looking back, it was one of the proudest moments in Quadpack’s history.”


What could have been a negative turning point for the company, and for Eaves as a business-leader, turned out to be a case study for the idea that resilient businesses are based on a shared sense of purpose and positive values.


The early experiences that shaped Tim Eaves as an entrepreneur


The importance of doing right by people was something that Eaves learned from his entrepreneurial family, in the east of England. His cousins had their own, very successful, businesses, and as a young man Eaves admired their values and work ethic, as well as their lifestyles. “They were my heroes,” he says. “Their dedication and passion really, really inspired me [and] they were very fair in the way they did business.” It was their example that led Eaves to regard integrity as a core value in himself and his companies.


Eaves studied marketing at university in the UK with a focus on the engineering sector, graduating in 1985. He then worked in the north of England for an engineering company that produced components for the cosmetic packaging industry and whose main competitors were in Spain. In 1995, he started to work for himself as a commercial agent for Spanish companies but was keen to establish his own business. “I quickly realised that I could increase margins if I moved from an agency to a trading model,” he says.


Ultimately, it was an insult from another agent some years earlier in the UK that persuaded him to take the next step. “He had said: ‘You don’t have the guts to be an entrepreneur’,” Eaves recalls with a smile. “And it was the time to prove him wrong.”


Eaves founded Belcos Packaging Services in Barcelona in 1997. It was the precursor to Quadpack and a supplier of packaging solutions to the premium beauty sector. “My first few years as an entrepreneur were very, very difficult,” he admits. He worked continuously – never flying away on holiday, but never quite getting the business to take off either. “After about a year we got a big break with a huge order. But I didn’t sleep for a month because I was constantly thinking about what would happen if something went wrong.”

How Quadpack was formed and what it taught Tim Eaves about collaboration


By 2002, Eaves had realised that if he wanted to grow his business any further then he would need partners. “I wanted to scale the business as I saw the opportunity to do more internationally. But we didn’t have the financial resources or people to do it.”


“In late 2002, I approached three of my competitors – one in the UK, one in France and one in Germany – and invited them to form a cooperative and work together as a team. This collaboration became Quadpack,” he says. “So that was my first turning point in terms of growth: to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own.”


Twenty-two years later, collaboration continues to be a core value for the company and a key component of its growth. Quadpack is now one of the world’s leading suppliers of packaging to the beauty industry, operating from 12 locations across the world and employing over 800 people.


Why the acquisition of its Torelló factory was a critical turning point for Quadpack as a company


In 2012, Quadpack took a bold new move by purchasing its first manufacturing facility in Torelló, Spain. “It was an important turning point as we’d been traders up to this point, and now we could move our business into manufacturing,” Eaves explains. “It was our first industrial adventure and an opportunity to offer a sustainable product to the market.”


The factory produced wooden components for the cosmetics industry, and gave Quadpack the opportunity to serve an industry hungry for more sustainability in its supply chain. Yet it was a personal turning point for Eaves because, he says, “it’s where I started to understand the social impact of businesses on our employees but also the wider community.”


Many of the people living in the neighbouring village worked in the factory. If Quadpack hadn’t stepped in, they would have been out of work. “One day a lady approached me in the car park, and she was crying,” Eaves says. “I thought we’d done something wrong, but she explained to me that we’d saved her life, and the lives of her colleagues… Since then, we’ve been very active in working with the communities where we have operations, including the creation of the Quadpack Foundation. We realise they are a crucial part of our infrastructure.”


How Deutsche Bank is helping Quadpack to recover from the pandemic and grow sustainably


Like businesses the world over, Quadpack was hit hard by the pandemic. It had recently made a major acquisition in Germany, so had to cope with extra debt just as revenues were falling. Then one of its Spanish banks lost confidence and withdrew their support.


“Thankfully, Deutsche Bank reached out to us,” Tim said, “And I can’t tell you how important it is for a leader to know that they can focus on their business – on what they’re good at – because someone is now backing them up from a financial perspective.”


It was to prove a crucial turning point: Quadpack has now returned to stability and growth, with 2023 marking a record-high EBITDA of 16.2 million euros.


Quadpack now specialises in sustainable packaging solutions. In 2022, it achieved “B Corp” certification, an independent certification that recognises high standards in environmental, social and governance practices. And in December, it won an entrepreneurship award for “ESG Recognition” as part of the “Cómo Lo Hice” (or “How I did it”) Awards, organised by Forbes and sponsored by Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank.

How Tim Eaves is refocusing on purpose to fuel Quadpack’s next stage of growth


In 2022, Eaves decided to hire a new CEO for Quadpack, in order to step back from day-to-day operations and focus on improving the company’s social and environmental impact as its Chief Impact Officer. “That was a huge turning point for me because my diary was suddenly completely free,” he says. “And it’s given me more time to focus on what I love – to inspire other leaders to be braver and more ambitious in terms of their social and environmental impact.”


A relentless focus on purpose is, Eaves suggests, what ultimately enables an entrepreneur to overcome the challenges that arise during any successful business journey. “A close friend and business advisor once told me, ‘Acelerar en la niebla’ or ‘Accelerate into the Fog’,” he says. “Perfection can be the enemy of progress and sometimes we just have to move forwards and accept that we can’t control everything.” But at these moments, you have to be sure of why you’re in business, in order to make the best decisions.


“For every success [at Quadpack], there’s probably been one or two moments of adversity,” he says. “And I think the most important thing in those situations is to use your core values as your North Star.”

Video interview: Tim Eaves, Quadpack Industries

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