"I could never sit still in an office all day!"

Amy and Fraser Laing, with Poppy the golden retreiver!

"I could never sit still in an office all day!"

Amy Laing comes from a family farming and timber business, with a focus on their popular shepherd’s huts and timber camping pods. But what’s it like working with your dad and your brother, across a wide range of businesses?

What is it the company does?

Laing's Timber Products is a well-established company which has been involved in the production of quality timber buildings since 1998. We manufacture authentic shepherd's huts and timber camping pods (these have become massively popular of late). It has a reputation which is envied throughout our industry, and that is all thanks to our many customers who come back with repeat business or recommend us to their friends and families. 20 years on and we are still here, still family owned, still with a fierce passion for, and a pride in, our landscape, our people, our environment and its products.

What does your role involve?

I don’t have a role as such, every day is different and that’s what I like about working within a family business, it keeps us all on our toes and we are kept going all day. In general, I help with accounts, from day to day banking and cash flows, whilst other days can be spend designing builds and interiors for our next hut and pod project, then another day it can be spent away from it all helping out in our family owned farm shop being a butcher! I love the wide variety of jobs that are thrown at me daily, I could never sit still in an office all day.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

Due to my lack of interest I left school at 16, I went on to do a business management course at a local college but this wasn’t for me. My father George has always played a big part in my career, I always looked up to him as a mentor, the hardest working man I know, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Originally a farmer, he has taken on challenges and built up the company to where it is now and I would like to continue to work hard and keep it going. He has also taught me a lot along the way and listening in on him with customers I learnt a lot and feel confident in selling the products we sell. I have sell taught myself along the way really, being a kinaesthetic learner, which is I learn best by doing it!  

Through the journey I have taken a keen interest in the manufacturing side and like to get involved in the design process and thoroughly enjoy the interior design side of the Pods.  I love it when you are at a trade show and people walk in and here ‘WOW’ or ‘I could live in here, it’s better than my house’. It gives me a boost that to think all the blood sweat and maybe a slight strop has definitely paid off to create a great product!

What do you believe makes a great leader?

A great leader to me has definitely to be someone that has a good sense of humour, there is nothing worse than a boring work place for me! Good organisational skills is another strong point, as is being organised. To be successful in business we need to be organised, this will help us complete tasks and stay on top of things.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Working within the office is probably the most challenging. Ideally I like to be hands on working with the workshop, whether it be filling and sanding or painting, however managing cash flow effectively whilst growing the company aggressively has been a tough challenge over the years.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I think it’s important to make sure you have a balance and switch off from work outside of the work place, I enjoy competing my horses or simply a good gallop through the forestry brushes off the stress that day.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A farmer’s wife! Actually I always wanted to become a Vet, outside in the mud with the animals at our family farm was for me! From a young age I understood vets diagnosis and how to treat sick animals. I dreamt of becoming a vet in order to help the animals we love.  However school wasn’t for me, especially when it became time for exams. I wanted to be outside working teaching myself through being in the family workplace.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

My pet hates are people who lack passion, enthusiasm, attention to detail, am a quality control freak, everything has to be perfect and to the best it can be which I suppose is a good thing in this industry. Also untidiness, I believe that there is a place for everything and everything has a place.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I see us twice the size we are now and significantly more well known, I would like to think we will become the industry and won’t just exist within it!

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Always believe in yourself and what you are trying to achieve, don’t be afraid to fail! The key to being successful is taking calculated risks.

What is your background Amy, how long have you been working in the family business?

I don’t really have a business background as such, I left school at 16 and started within the family business. I have actually really enjoyed it and have learnt more from the outside practical world then at school. My parents and office staff have been my teachers if you like and am thankful for them all. I have now been in the business for 7 years and other than working with animals I don’t think I would rather be anywhere else. Every day is different and that’s what I like, we have a great bunch of staff and you always get a laugh.

What is your favourite type of wood?

I would say my favourite type of wood would have to be oak or Siberian larch, definitely a heavier timber. Oak furniture fits very well with different decorative styles whether it be country themes or the more modern themes I think that’s why I like it and I love how when left to dry naturally it cracks given it that rustic character. 

What are your hobbies out of work?

Out of work I love being in the country, either on horseback or walking the dogs, Poppy the Golden Retriever plays a big part in my life - she’s like my right arm even when it’s busy and stressful in the office she isn’t far way for a cuddle or soft toy to chill you out with. I also enjoy competing my horse within show jumping and cross country phases. 

Who do you admire most in business?

My dad for definite! He is a hardworking man with many talents and can turn is hand to anything practical.

What do you like most about being based in Cumbria?

Being from Scotland I really do like ‘Bonnie Scotland’ however Cumbria is such a nice place to live, and plays a big part in farming and country sports which I think the Shepherds hut fit nicely in Cumbria. For business Cumbria is a great place to be based, you have a great coverage of Scotland, direct link to the M6 and M74, an hour’s drive to the M1.