Quick facts

About Typhoon International

How does a company make its kitchenware sexy? Typhoon came up with the answer by signing up Jamie Oliver to help design 14 products, from jewel-coloured oil drizzlers to chopping boards with non-slip feet.

This celebrity collection is the most recent coup by a firm that started with three people distributing woks to Europe for an American supplier. Now, the company has a multi-million-pound global business selling kitchen products from blowtorches to £1 wooden spoons, under the motto of "fun, funky, accessible and affordable".

Back in 1989, the company began operating as European distributor for Taylor and Ng, from a tiny office in Wimbledon Village. In 1996, it expanded into warehouse space in New Malden in Surrey, and started looking for a new title.

"The marketing manager came up with Typhoon, a word with eastern origins because the company was founded selling Asian-oriented products," says export sales support manager Debbie Brown. "Then we started to look at more funky products, colours and fashion trends."

Mark Holden, who ran a design company that Typhoon had been working with, bought into the company and eventually took it over, becoming group managing director three years ago. He is a charismatic figure, strolling around the office in a sweater and jeans, willing to listen to his staff. "We did an anonymous appraisal on me, and I got some good feedback," he says. "Now I have 'catch up with Mark' sessions for people who don't report to me, even if it is just over sandwiches and an orange juice."

There are now 90 employees, typically sales managers who are paid £30,000 and have been with the firm for an average of almost five years. Last year, five people joined but nobody left, and Holden says: "If people leave, I take it as a personal failure. If we have a difference of opinion, we open a bottle of wine and sort it out. If people feel recognised and that their opinions are seriously considered, that is the best way to show you care."

Holden wins high scores from staff at the head office, now in Chessington, and the main warehouse in Lincoln. They have faith in their leader (a positive score of 83%) and believe senior managers live the firm's values (81%). Management wins an overall positive score of 81%, ranking Typhoon among the top 30 SMEs on this measure: managers appreciate a good job done (81%), care about people as individuals (84%) and support them too (85%).

There is a strong sense of family in each team (80%) and in the bright head office a "wall of fame" is stocked with pictures of people having fun, Holden's latest articles for industry journals and a book with everyone's name and snapshot. Other initiatives include red caps for people who wish not to be disturbed and a relaxation area with mini-golf and a darts board.

Staff get 25% off all Typhoon trade prices and a Christmas discount (including for family and friends) of 40%. They also get £75-worth of new goods each year. "My kitchen is looking lovely," says Catherine Halvey, a sales administrator.

The company spends £12,000 a year on entertainment such as bowling, a picnic in the summer, dinner evenings, the Christmas party and monthly takeaway lunches. People have fun in their teams (89%) and are excited about where the company is going (87%), exceptional scores that rank Typhoon 24th and 19th out of all top 100 SMEs respectively.

Holiday increases to 25 days a year after five years of service, and there is a £250 bonus for having fewer than three days off sick a year.

Company Statistics

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  • Male to Female ratio:

    56% / 44%

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