Interview: Gary Lyons of PlasticBoxShop on entrepreneurship, employees and family

The entrepreneur and flexibly-working dad explains how he does it and why you should always get home for bedtime.

plasticboxshop family

 

Gary Lyons was on the corporate ladder when he decided, along with wife Lisa, to quit and strike out on their own. They launched a discount hardware store in Yorkshire, but it soon became apparent that their best-selling product were storage boxes. They experimented with selling these online, which at the time was a gamble for them with two children under four, but it took off and PlasticBoxShop was born. We asked Gary about the secret of his success.

How did Plastic Box Shop come to be?

PlasticBoxShop was started on the back of a bricks and mortar DIY shop. We had always sold boxes outside the front of the shop and they always tended to sell well. As we increased our product range, customers and local businesses started asking us to get them specific boxes. At the time the internet was just starting to take off so we decided to start selling our boxes on eBay. Within a few months, it was clear there was a market for them so we built a cheap website. Within a year the website was doing more in a week than the shop did in a month so we moved to larger premises and upgraded the website.

You began the business as a dad with young children. How did you juggle work and home life, especially since your wife was involved in the company?

It wasn’t easy at times but I tried my best to get home at a reasonable time so I could at least read them a story before bed.  I also made sure that I spent time with the kids on a weekend so we created as many memories as we could by going out and visiting places.  While we only had one holiday a year we also made sure that it was filled with fun and the kids had a good time.  The fact that my wife worked in the business did give her more flexibility while they were young so she was able to spend more time with them than if she had a conventional job.

How do you find your life as a flexibly-working dad?

I had to work long hours but I do not think I could have done it any other way.  It was just important to spend quality time with them when I wasn’t working and be there for bedtime at least.

How aware are you of your employees having a good work/life balance?

We have never expected our employees to work as long and hard as us and we always said from day one that we wanted our staff to enjoy working with us.  We always made them know that any family issues came first and we would give them flexibility if required.

Do you think policy supports encouraging employers to allow their workers to be flexible?

I don’t think policy ever came back into it.  To us, our employees are very important so it was how we treated and supported them that mattered.  Also, if a staff member’s role was more task-based we would always allow them to work their hours around school holidays etc.

How do you see the business and your life moving forward?

Covid and the aftermath has thrown up lots of issues in the past two years but the business has managed to grow and the experience has brought us closer together both within the workplace and at home.  I see the business continuing to grow but I think there will be challenges moving forward that will be harder to plan for. 

What advice would you give you an entrepreneur looking to set out on a new business with young children now?

Just do not lose sight of why you are working so hard and make sure that you spend as much time with the kids, while they are young, as you can.  They grow up so fast so try and prioritise and make time for building memories.

Read more:

Author Tom Kreffer on fatherhood and writing new book Dear Arlo

Interview: WorkClub app founder Nick Donnelly on life during the pandemic





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