Story | 04/19/2024 09:19:20 | 4 min Read time

Behind the scenes: Joan Bailey supports UK customers through turbulence and joy

UK Sales Manager Joan Bailey has been in the wood industry for more than 40 years. Although her days never go according to plan, she always finds time to listen to the customers and help them succeed.

The history of Joan Bailey’s long career in the wood industry begins with a rebellious and freedom-loving young woman, who did not want to go to college. When Joan found out that she could study at the Institute of Wood Science while earning a living in the timber industry, her career path was set.

In 1984, she joined the sales team of Schauman UK, which later became UPM Plywood, and she has stayed there ever since. In 2002, she finished her MBA whilst working. Apart from different roles in sales, Joan has been involved in developing special WISA plywood for various sectors and was instrumental in the team leading the UK market development of WISA-Spruce, WISA-Sprucefloor, WISA-Form MDO and WISA-SpruceFR.

Thinking ahead for the customers

Today, Joan is a sales manager in UPM Plywood’s UK and Ireland team, focusing on the UK panel trading business with selected partners.

"Whether it's sales support, technical enquiries, or a carbon footprint issue, I can offer accurate and up-to-date information. For multi-million-pound projects or simple installation queries, I provide the trusted support behind the WISA brand. My job is to match the customers’ needs with UPM Plywood’s capabilities and make sure they fit, so it's a win-win situation for both,” Joan sums up.

Although the job description might sound simple, the job is not. Especially the recent years have been turbulent, notes Joan. “After COVID, so many things have been thrown at us. The plywood market is truly global nowadays, so everything affects the business.”

Joan’s primary tool in overcoming the global challenges is her open and honest relationship with the customers, based on strong mutual trust. She loves to talk but has evolved to be a good listener, which is an essential skill in today's business environment.

Like governments around the world, also the British government emphasises a smaller carbon footprint and the use of wood in construction – an area where the WISA products would play an important role.

“I need to have a good knowledge and understanding of the UK market and global events and think ahead for the customer. Do we need to build up our stock or prepare for upcoming legislation, for example?”

Close to the customer

“Busy” is the word that best describes Joan’s typical workday. She starts with a plan, but then her phone starts ringing, and her inbox is filled with urgent requests. “So, in the end, my day is nowhere near what I thought it was going to be at the start of the day!”

Joan is daily in touch with the customers face-to-face or via the phone from her home office in Epping, just Northeast of London. “My customers are quite local to me. I'm not too far from the Port of Tilbury, so it's easy to visit my customers there.”

Joan regularly goes to the UPM Plywood UK office in Warrington, north of Manchester to meet up with her colleagues in the UK team.

When Joan finally has free time, she spends much of it with her horse. “My life is ‘work, horse, sleep’,” she laughs.

Sustainability and trust

Although Joan joined the wood industry by coincidence, she immediately felt attracted to it. Doing the right thing and taking care of the environment has always been close to Joan’s heart.

“When I was first working at Schauman, I had FSC posters on my wall. Not only because they featured stars like Pierce Brosnan and Jennifer Lopez, but also because I genuinely want to take care of the environment and the habitats of wild animals,” she explains.

With that in mind, UPM is a perfect match for Joan. They both practice what they preach, and Joan is proud of UPM Plywood’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions every single day.

Looking back at more than 40 years in the industry, the most important to Joan has been the many people she has met in the “UPM Plywood family” and among the customers.

“I know the customers’ business and the way they do things and I try to support that,” she says, adding that there is also a lighter side to the business with room for jokes, laughter and friendly conversation.

“I want to thank my customers and colleagues for sticking with me and putting their trust in me!”

 
 
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