The managing director of Moulds Patterns and Models (MPM), Ben Wilson sits behind a canteen table, functioning as a makeshift desk, in a sparse office.
The walls are freshly whitewashed and adjoining offices still empty. Despite this, it has been a remarkable turnaround for the family-owned firm.
On February 6 at 11pm, Mr Wilson was woken up by a phone call telling him that the business, that his father had established, was on fire. The Pudsey-based firm ended up losing everything.
However, two months on from the blaze, MPM has found a new home and is already up to 80 per cent capacity. The sound of various bits of machinery and hubbub of staff emanating from the factory floor a testament to that.
The firm, which employs 35 people, has only lost one customer as a result of the two-week stoppage it suffered.
Mr Wilson praised local businesses and staff who pitched in with help and support in the aftermath of the blaze.
Rod Fisher, the boss of Print Leeds, located down the road from MPM’s former home, offered to put the firm up in a building.
“It’s one of those moments where it restores your faith in human nature,” Mr Wilson told The Yorkshire Post.
“He allowed us to move in the middle of February but not start paying rent until March 1 so we had two weeks grace.”
MPM’s former neighbour Hopkins Catering also stepped in by allowing the firm to use its broadband and meeting room.
Victoria Hopkins, managing director of the firm, said that she initially thought it might have been her business that had caught fire. As a result of that initial feeling of dread, she sympathised with what MPM was going through. Despite the fire, MPM has managed to retain all its staff. Mr Wilson puts this down to the team culture the firm has fostered over the years.
“When the chips were down everybody knew that we were all in it together,” he said.
The management team’s swift move to reassure not only customers but staff and suppliers helped as well. Mr Wilson said: “We made sure they all knew what was happening from an insurance point of view, what was covered and the fact that nobody’s job was in jeopardy.”
He added that seeing his staff step up was the most pleasing thing from this testing chapter in the 40-year-old family firm’s history.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money on building that team culture and atmosphere within MPM,” Mr Wilson said. “If that had fallen apart during the crisis it would have been soul destroying.”
The exact cause of the fire is not known as due to really high temperatures of 800 to 1,000 degrees there is very little internal evidence, Mr Wilson said. Investigations are still continuing.
At the time of the fire, Mr Wilson’s parents were at his brother’s hospital bedside. He had just undergone a five-hour operation.
Ringing them up with news that the business had caught fire “just demolished them”, Mr Wilson says.
But things are looking brighter for the Wilson family. Mr Wilson’s youngest brother is on the mend.
The future is still “bright” for MPM, says Mr Wilson. “We’ve had about five new leads since the fire,” he laughs ironically. “At the moment it’s a bit trickier. It would be foolhardy to take that on. Some of it we’re looking at.
“Some of it we’ve had to turn away and recommend other companies.”
The MPM boss says he never likes putting the phone down to a new customer without finding them a solution even if that means recommending a competitor.
Mr Wilson says “it sucks” to see MPM’s former site being demolished. “That’s probably the bit that I find hardest,” he added.
However, the managing director of the fibreglass mouldings firm says he is happy for neighbouring businesses and residents that it is being dealt with quickly.
“The times that I do go back to the old site are the times that affect me the most,” Mr Wilson said.
Although operational as a business, Mr Wilson says the new premises will only feel like home to him once the office is fully furnished.
He said: “To a lot of the other team members it feels like home. They’ve all settled in.
“I think I’ll feel better once we’ve got the office environment done.
“My office desk at the moment is a canteen table. We’ve no cabinets, no files. It’s just about getting everything back to some level of normality.”
Firm confident of hitting targets
The business is on a sound footing financially, Ben Wilson said.
The disruption caused by the fire led to MPM having to revise its goals but Mr Wilson is still fairly confident of hitting year-end targets. Mr Wilson praised the company’s accountant Paul Wintersgill of Wintersgill Associates.
Mr Wilson said: “Our accountant acts like a finance director. He’s in once a month.
“Wintersgill Associates and Paul Wintersgill have been brilliant.
“I can only encourage others to find yourself a really good accountant because it has been critical during this time.”