Lindsay Page is easy to spot as you walk into Ted Baker’s trendy and cavernous head office – he’s the only one wearing a suit.
Of course, it’s not just any old suit, but one of the designer clothing company’s own suits – which, like all its products, aims to be well-tailored, individual and fashionable.
Page, 43, who joined the company in the run-up to its flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 1997, is renowned at Ted Baker for his suit-wearing tendencies.
This started on his first day when he turned up, much to the amusement of his more casually-dressed colleagues, in full shirt and tie regalia.
Choice of clothing
He says that after 16 years in practice with Binder Hamlyn and Arthur Andersen, his choice of clothing had been automatic.
Having made his entrance, he has persisted in wearing a suit every day, although he has now ditched the tie, most days at least. The suit gives him, he mutters vaguely, ‘an element of authority’.
Urbane and with an easy manner, Page is one of two directors who has steered the designer brand through five years of post-flotation expansion.
It now has 18 shops, six retail outlet stores and more than 30 department store concessions.
The other director is chief executive and founder Ray Kelvin, who opened the first Ted Baker store in Glasgow in 1988.
The duo got to know each other when Page, a corporate finance specialist, advised Kelvin on a management buyout of Ted Baker from A Goldberg and Sons, a Scottish company then struggling in receivership with whom Kelvin had started Ted Baker as a joint venture.
The two became friends. Kelvin introduced Page to the joys of fly-fishing and when Kelvin, initially reluctantly, started to think about floating the company, he invited Page on board.
‘He was adamantly against flotation at first because of his experience of Goldberg, which was a public company that had gone into receivership,’ says Page.
‘We looked at a number of alternatives, but he became more comfortable with the idea of floating Ted Baker. So he turned round to me one day and said: “I’ve decided that I’ll float but I’ll only do it if you come and be my partner”.’
‘That’s an important thing for me and one’s position in the business – he and I are regarded as a partnership. It’s not “you are FD and you do this bit and I’m CE and I’ll do this” – it’s more of a collaborative partnership.’
Page does not deny that the flotation was hard work, but having done 20-odd flotations during his time in practice, he says it was not the biggest challenge he has faced at Ted Baker.
He says: ‘When I joined the business the turnover was about £14m and employed 150 people. We now turn over more than £70m and employ around 850 people – that expansion is over five years.
‘Growing at this pace but retaining the very special culture the business has is a bit of a challenge. And doing this against the requirements of the City is more of a challenge. It’s something that you have to work hard at every day.’
Good news for investors
Ted Baker, however, has been good news for investors. Its latest annual results, released in March this year, show a 32.1% increase in turnover to £62.1m and profit before tax and non-recurring costs up 18.3% to £9.7m.
Page says the company has not been hit by the downturn that has afflicted many businesses, even questioning whether there has actually been one.
Aside from his role looking after the company’s finances, investor relations, strategy, forecasting and budgeting, he is also responsible for IT and personnel. Dealing with building leases and intellectual property issues also take up some of his time. ‘It’s a massively wide role,’ he says.
The future, according to Page, includes a focus on the US where it is developing its distribution, and expansion in Europe. Ted Baker is opening a store in Paris in August.
Planning and driving Ted Baker
Page sees his role as planning and driving the business forward outside the creative part of Ted Baker, although he emphasises that everyone can contribute. For example, he came up with the ‘Endurance’ name that the company is using for its best-selling range of clothes launched in 1999.
He is supported by a head of finance and financial controller, along with a finance team of around eight, which gives him time to concentrate on the business and its future.
Despite his senior role, Page, like chief executive Kelvin, does not hide away in the office, instead sitting next to the chief executive at one end of the huge open plan room. It is an office that many people would be jealous of. It is a huge two-storey space with a relaxed and up-to-the-minute atmosphere.
You enter through a giant lobster on a billboard, negotiate a few gnomes and other unusual fixtures in the lobby area, before riding up to reception level in an old industrial-style lift. You enter the office on the top floor of the office area, where the casual but fashionable staff sit in spacious rows of desks down either side between huge windows.
As you would expect, there are rails full of clothes, sketches, drawings and bits of material strewn around the place, albeit in an organised- looking manner.
Meeting rooms at one end are themed – one has a huge picture of New York covering the whole wall, while another has a large picture of London. The floor of the desk level is dramatically cut away in the middle to reveal a cafe area downstairs.
For Page, the whole thing is a massive change from his previous existence in practice. ‘I had been in a professional accounting firm for 16 years and I had in my mind that I would like a change of scenery, to do something different and actually take on and relish the challenge of actually being in business. This was so right I didn’t even think about it. I knew the business, I knew the people, I was comfortable with the position I would hold.’
Page says he made the right decision – and has the air of a man who means it. Ted Baker, he says, is where he will be for the foreseeable future. He claims not to be a particularly fashion-conscious individual, although his well-cut suit and quietly fashionable shirt suggest otherwise.
‘One does get into it, because there is a cycle of fashion that I wasn’t aware of. I am now aware of it and so the impetus to give your wardrobe a bit of an update is not driven by “I’ve got a shirt that’s falling apart” but “it’s a new season”,’ he enthuses.
He adds: ‘On a business level I am acutely aware of fashion and new seasons.’
WHO IS TED BAKER?
The company’s website says only: ‘Ray Kelvin (chief executive) is the closest man to Ted.’ Finance director Page does not provide any further illumination. ‘He’s not here today, he’s an international man of mystery,’ he says enigmatically.