The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has sadly announced the death of Michael Lee, BWF membership director, after a short battle with illness.
In the spirit of the joinery industry, Mike started work as a 17 year-old apprentice with the National Federation of Building Trade Employers in August 1967, the organisation from which the BWF evolved. In a letter to his headmistress at the time the organisation wrote: “We are anxious that the young man we appoint shall develop an attractive and diplomatic personality which will in due course fit him for more responsible positions in the organisation”.
Mike did not disappoint and grew with the organisation to become BWF secretary, a post he held for 20 years, before becoming membership director in 2007.
Mike was front and centre throughout the evolution of the BWF and was pivotal in moving the BWF to a limited company in 2006, and developing into the independent, self-sustaining and powerful voice for the woodworking sector it is today.
Despite his incredible service period, Mike never lost his enthusiasm for his work and in his final years led the largest membership growth the organisation has ever seen, bringing membership numbers to over 700, a 50% increase on 2010 levels. His efforts helped to secure the Membership Success Award for the BWF at the Trade Association Forum Awards in 2014.
In nearly 50 years in the industry, Mike developed an in-depth knowledge of how the industry works, its culture and personality; he had a knack for being able to spot the needs of members before they knew they needed it themselves.
In 2013 Mike picked up the RoSPA SME Advice Award on behalf of the BWF and spurred on by this, he launched the Health & Safety Hero campaign, focussing on cultural change in the industry. This campaign continues to grow thanks to his determination.
Many BWF members past and present will recall him as their main point of contact with the federation. As well as spending a great deal of his time on the road visiting joinery businesses in their workshops, factories and offices, he was deeply trusted and respected for his advice on anything from health & safety to employment, legal and business support. He was a respected figure outside of the membership too, having built strong relationships with the HSE and other industry bodies including committees and suppliers.
In addition to his professional achievements, Mike was a strong family man. He leaves behind loving wife Irene and their two daughters Naomi and Eleanor. His daughters both followed in Mike’s footsteps into the built environment, studying architecture, and will no doubt fly the flag for timber and joinery as part of their work. Mike loved making things out of wood himself, and had kitted out a new shed in his back garden with woodworking machinery so that he could work on his own woodworking projects. Mike was also an avid collector of vintage Superhero comics.
BWF chief executive, Iain McIlwee, said: “Mike was an integral member of BWF’s team and one of the nicest and most dedicated people that you could ever wish to meet. It was a pleasure to have worked with him. Mike genuinely cared deeply about the successes, trials and tribulations of each and every member. We all benefitted considerably from his advice, experience and calming presence. His contribution over nearly 50 years working in the industry is huge and we are forever in his debt.”
Mike passed away aged 65. He will be sadly missed by colleagues, friends and members.