He wants us all to have fun

<b>I Work For... </b> Joyce Allsebrook works for Mike Hughes, group chief executive, HP Bulmer Holdings plc
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The Independent Online

I grew up thinking of cider as something made by farmers to keep the haymakers going, but its image was changing by the time I joined Bulmer in 1969. Then it was private, run by the Bulmer family with Bertram at the top and his son and two cousins at the next level.

I grew up thinking of cider as something made by farmers to keep the haymakers going, but its image was changing by the time I joined Bulmer in 1969. Then it was private, run by the Bulmer family with Bertram at the top and his son and two cousins at the next level.

It was one of the biggest businesses in Hereford and the family did a lot for its employees and the community. It was a different regime. To my young eyes, there was a "them and us" attitude. A year later the company went public and I was fascinated to watch a small family concern go through the transition.Everyone was uncertain about the future, but it worked out well and I learned a lot about the business world. The Bulmers remained gentlemen throughout.

In 1988, I was 40 and expecting my first child. I had no intention of returning to work. Yet in 1996 I was covering for the secretary who had taken my job while she was on maternity leave, which was when Mike joined. He offered me a full-time job and I couldn't refuse. I got such a buzz from what I did.

I thought Mike a giant when I met him. I am short and he is so tall. On arrival, he immediately began to change the image of the company. Out went the stuffy suits and in came casual wear. I found it strange he wanted to be known by his first name and I hated the idea of becoming open plan. I wanted to say: "Ah, but we don't do things that way here." Instead, I listened to his ideas and within a week I was enjoying the open atmosphere. We all feel much closer.

Mike also wants us to have fun. He built a gym and encourages us to put suggestions into the Think Big Scheme, some of which have been implemented.

He came here wanting to make Bulmer a billion-pound company, able to compete with the multinationals. His purchase of foreign cider companies and The Beer Seller, a drink distribution company, were exciting steps. He wants to make cider internationally popular and he spends a lot of time in the US, Australia, South Africa and Europe and he's started doing business with China. He is motivated and committed, fair and easy to get on with. He also knows what he wants. I'm hard-working too and I enjoy being allowed to get on with my job. The busier I am, the happier.

In the old days, the boss always wanted to see things before they were sent off. Mike allows me to make decisions on his behalf. He used to do his own diary before he got to know me, but now I have control and decide what meetings he should go to.

He hadn't been here long before I sent him to an 8.30am meeting which had been cancelled without me noticing. I was mortified until he said: "Joyce, if that is the only mistake you make in your life, it's nothing." He teases me about being a school ma'am and I am quite bossy at times, but you have to be when you aren't tall. I hadn't tried alcohol before I came to work here, but we are dealing with a different generation. I have an 11-year-old daughter and I do worry about the changing world around her.

Mike takes under-age drinking and alcoholism seriously and he's a member of the Portman Group. He is helping to make the company more aware of its broader responsibilities, which is another reason why I work here.

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