Bakers Timber Buildings is a family firm with a dedication to great customer service and an expertise in that goes back more than half a century.
Martin Baker, the firm’s Managing Director, explains the history and values of the company.
Laying the foundations – how it all began
It was in April 1963 that my Dad, Keith Baker, began a five-year apprenticeship in machine woodworking at Crawley Technical College while working in the mill at WC Youngman Ltd.
He went on to pass his full Technological Certificate in Building Crafts at the Brixton School of Building, before gaining a certificate in Timber Technology after two years at the High Wycombe College of Technology and Arts.
When he passed his Institute of Wood Science exam, Keith received the top mark in the whole country and won the Timber Trades Journal Silver Cup – enabling him to use the letters CMIWSc after his name.
He worked as a wood machinist for many years, gained valuable experience as a rep for a timber importer based in London’s Docklands, then went on to manage a Crawley company manufacturing garden sheds.
When that job was made redundant he decided to start his own business – and in February 1985 Bakers Timber Buildings was formed.
Read our story below the pictures
For the first year or so Keith’s only assistance came from my Mum Pam, who did the saw work, kept the books and helped with delivering and installing the buildings.
Keith's ethos was to learn from the errors made by the other companies he had worked for and make sure his company did things better.
He soon realised that the heavy-duty ranges of sturdier buildings were more popular with customers, so decided to focus on delivering quality buildings with great customer service.
He took on his first employee in early 1987 and the firm has grown steadily ever since.
I was 11 when the business was set up and I worked as a Saturday assistant – keeping the workshop tidy, treating the buildings and learning how to manufacture the panels.
Dad made me the floor manager when I was 12. That sounds grand, but the floor panels are the easiest to make and I produced these at weekends and in school holidays.
From my Dad I picked up a good understanding of running a business. I knew about VAT and gross profit by the age of 14 and would help Mum with the book-keeping, adding up columns of figures on an old calculator.
But I also loved the technology behind the timber and the tools and equipment used. When I was 14 I won a school prize for an oral presentation on how to build a shed panel. I was also awarded a distinction in woodwork for making a toy helicopter that still sits proudly in our sales office.
It became obvious I would join the business, but Dad and I both felt I should gain other experiences. When I left school I took an apprenticeship in Carpentry and Joinery at James Longley's in Crawley – renowned for some of the best training in the UK.
I passed my City & Guilds advanced exam with credit, while working in the joinery but more on sites specialising in roofing and other structural elements. In September 1993 I joined Dad in the business.
I worked on the production side in the factory for many years and then spent time on site. I was gradually taking on more responsibility, but always working as a team with Dad.
His genius lay in knowing when to loosen the reins, to allow me to make my own mistakes and to push the business in a new direction.
Keith’s initial aim had been to be his own boss, to make a living without the threat of redundancy and to have a business to be proud of.
With that target reached by the time I joined him, I wanted to put my own stamp on the direction of the company and it quickly became my passion to produce the best buildings in the UK and offer the best customer service in the industry. Or even the best service a customer has had anywhere.
Dad is now retired; but instead of playing golf he comes in four days a week and continues to work in the factory making buildings, where he is always happiest!
Our first workshop was located on the same estate where the company is still based today. But at that time we worked in converted chicken sheds. Things were a bit rough round the edges, but the price was right and the location – in close proximity to the M23 and M25 – really worked for us.
As we grew, so did the estate. Its first modern factories were built in the late 1980s and we moved into Unit 35.
In 1996 we bought a new factory (Units 28 and 29) prior to it being built, allowing us to install our 10-feet deep vertical preservative dip tank. We also got permission to build a show centre next door.
As Bakers Timber Buildings has grown, the Bolney Grange Business Park has done likewise around us and we have some fantastic companies among our neighbours.
We have always moved with the times and since 2010 and the advent of new materials, we have moved towards lower maintenance and a higher specification on our buildings.
The garden rooms we create for clients now are unrecognisable from the structures we delivered when the firm was first created. But what has not changed is the determination to deliver quality custom-made buildings.
The values we strive to embody every day are as follows:
To say the answer is yes – now what is the question?
To offer the best buildings and the best service a customer has ever received
To treat a customer as we would like to be treated
Near enough is not good enough
To remember that we create more than one building a week, but most of our customers do so once in a lifetime – so let’s make it a great experience
To be a five-star company
Christine, Office Manager. The epitome of organisation who has worked for us since 2015. With experience of working in school offices, she knows how to keep Mark and me in check and loves a good spreadsheet!
Rob, senior sales adviser. He joined me in July 2019 with the key job role of helping customers have the best experience in the sales journey. He comes from within the industry and is now fully up to speed with the Bakers way so there is not much he doesn’t know about the rule regulations and our buildings. His enegry and passion is infectious so visit the centre, get him to make you a coffee and talk to him about your dream building!
Mark, Project Manager. Very personable and calm, a friend of mine from our school and roller-disco days. Mark joined us in 2000 and worked for a short time in our factory and for many years on site. As the business has expanded, Mark has grown into this evolving position and is the link between the on-site team and the office while your project is happening
Alessio. Production Manager. A carpenter and joiner with many years of on-site work prior to joining us in 2014. His technical knowledge is a real asset to the business and he heads up a dedicated manufacturing team, known as the Insiders.
The on-site team. These are the people you are most likely to meet when your project starts. They have a wealth of knowledge, not only about our buildings but also all aspects of general building and landscaping. Known as the Outsiders, they take great pride and pleasure in seeing a project through to completion.
The best way to learn more about Bakers Timber Buildings and the garden rooms we create is to come and meet us at our showground.
Give us a call and we’ll arrange a time for you to visit. When you get here we’ll talk about your dream room over a nice cup of coffee.