Anthony Hulse

Anthony Hulse

General Counsel at Mayborn Group

Anthony Hulse is in this month’s Day in the Life column

Mayborn Group is much better known as being the home of the Tommee Tippee brand, one of the world’s leading suppliers of products for babies and toddlers. We’re headquartered in Northumberland, just north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with other offices in key markets such as the USA, Australia and France.

I joined Mayborn in March 2015 and was promoted to GC in September 2017. All of our in-house lawyers are also based at the UK headquarters, the business is currently growing rapidly and accordingly the legal team is also being expanded up to four lawyers, an IP manager (soon to be a UK and EU qualified patent attorney) and a paralegal. Unfortunately in the short term that does mean things are somewhat hectic!

On the off-chance that I’m still asleep the day generally starts with the alarm at 6:45am. The next 30 minutes involves a combination of getting myself ready and grabbing a tiny bit of time with the two children as they are roused from their slumbers, before dashing downstairs to knock up a sandwich for lunch, try to put everything in my bag which I’ll need for the day and throw a few things in the dishwasher which should have been done last night but were dumped on the work surface as sleep proved to be a far more enticing prospect.

After checking the phone to assess which route to work has the least horrendous traffic there’s just time to (occasionally successfully) convince the children to give their dad a hug before jumping in the car and heading off for an exploration of rat runs and slip roads as I seek (even less successfully) to minimise how long it takes to get to work. This is undoubtedly the worst part of the day, the blame for which lies squarely with me given the decision to work north of Newcastle whilst living south of Durham was entirely mine.

Once I’m in the office there really could be anything needing my attention that day. The business is looking to grow significantly over the next five years and has various projects underway to support organic growth, as well as looking at appropriate acquisitions which fit our overall strategy. These longer term structural plans sit on top of the work required to support the business’s day to day operations, so there’s a huge variety of things to get your teeth into.
On the surface the baby product business probably appears fairly straightforward, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve got an approximately equal split between products manufactured in our own facilities (in the UK, China and Morocco) and by external suppliers, and we sell into retailers and distributors world-wide. This brings with it a huge amount of commercial contracts work, and given the market we are in there’s also a massive focus on product safety compliance which often benefits from our input.

It’s also a surprisingly IP-driven industry, brand protection is of course very important but we also have a broad portfolio of patents which is being constantly added to as we increase our product development activities. As a result IP litigation is also a somewhat more frequent occurrence than we would like. In recent years we’ve had cases in a number of jurisdictions which has come with its own set of challenges.

What I particularly like about Mayborn is that the size of the business means we’re always working with the decision makers in the organisation. It’s big enough to have loads of variety, international exposure and opportunities to travel, but small enough that you work with the senior execs on a daily basis. This means that you can really get a feel for how your work is impacting the business and the impact it has. It’s the complete opposite of being a small cog in a massive machine.

We’re also a very highly regarded team in the business, we’re encouraged to do a lot more than simply providing legal advice and what we say is (for the most part!) listened to. If you’ve got something valid to say the input is welcomed, even if it isn’t a strictly legal point. This brings with it a requirement to have a very detailed understanding of the commercial realities of the business, but we’re in a great position to have that understanding because we see so many different issues from all over the business crossing our desks.

If workload permits I generally aim to leave around 6pm, by which point the traffic has normally dropped off to a level which makes the return journey a lot more pleasant experience than the morning commute. There’s then about 45 mins with the children before they are tucked in for the night. Being snuggled up with a five year old hanging off every word of the story you are reading is certainly a wonderful way of putting the stresses of work into perspective.

I’ll then normally cook the meal which has been designated for that night (Mrs H does the prep work and I do the rest). Even if things are reasonably quiet there’s normally a few emails to reply to just to keep things under control, and if there’s any major project on or something involving the US there will often be at least a couple of hours of work to do in the evening. It’s not all bad though; Mrs H has an Eastenders habit so to be honest sitting in the kitchen doing a bit of work sonically-isolated from the horrible screeching sounds coming from the TV isn’t a bad result!