Secret diary of an entrepreneur – Henry Williams

Henry Williams, managing director of Williams Automobiles
Henry Williams, managing director of Williams Automobiles

Henry Williams, managing director of award-winning Williams Automobiles, a luxury car dealership for prestige brands including Morgan and Lotus, racing car driver, and the Federation of Small Businesses’ Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2014, takes us through a typical week in his working life.

Williams Automobiles has been in our family for more than 100 years, and I am the fourth generation owner and managing director of the firm. The business was established by my great grandfather, Harry Williams, a true entrepreneur who ran a highly successful horse and cart business in the early 1900s. His friends thought he had gone completely mad when he bought his first car, a Belsize, in 1911, urging him to stick to horses and carts. But Harry, like all good entrepreneurs, listened to his gut and stuck to his guns. His friends were left eating humble pie when he quickly sold his first car for a handsome profit and Williams Automobiles was born. The business has survived world wars, economic downturns, and major technological and social changes. Let me take you through a week in the life of the company in the 21st Century.

DAY ONE – GETTING PRIORITIES STRAIGHT

With a significant proportion of our business revenue derived from exports to overseas markets such as China, Australia and New Zealand, one of my first tasks in the morning when I get into the office (once I’ve put the coffee on, of course) is to deal with any emails that have come in overnight. These can be anything from speculative enquiries from first-time customers looking to buy their own custom-built sports car, to existing clients ordering spare parts for their cherished Morgan cars, to advising overseas clients on essential import paperwork, or organising exclusive, private factory tours.

Once I’ve dealt with emails and managed to clear my inbox as much as possible, my next priority is to have ‘work in progress’ meetings for our car parts and accessories business and the workshops. It’s important that I know exactly what is going on throughout the business to ensure it is running smoothly. I also make sure I’ve reviewed all our sales orders and integrated all new customer purchases into our busy workshop production schedules.

DAY TWO – GOING HELL FOR LEATHER!

In the latter part of 2013, it became very evident that there was a significant market for high quality leather trim items and luggage accessories for Morgan cars, as well as totally bespoke leather interiors. We appointed a highly skilled leather trimmer and invested in a professional trim and leather goods workshop. Today, I’m taking a close look at our leather trim and in-car accessories operations to ensure manufacturing operations are on schedule. We’ve invested a lot in this growing side of the business and I am determined to maximise the potential. I hold a team brainstorm to generate new ideas to extend our product range, and in the afternoon, I have several appointments with manufacturers of metal, leather and tuning parts to discuss further developments and future innovations. I get home late and, after a quick meal, fire up my laptop and spend a couple of hours updating our Facebook pages with photographs of some of our latest new stock.

DAY THREE – SPANNING INTERNATIONAL BORDERS

As a business owner, I am passionate about developing people and giving staff the opportunity to progress. We now employ four graduates who were previously unemployed, trained them up, and they are now succeeding and making a great contribution to the business. We currently have a young graduate from China working with us, learning the ropes of the car business. I spend some time with him, providing support and assistance on this week’s projects to improve his learning, which he can then take back to our Chinese franchise. I then spend much of the day in my office on the phone – there’s a bit of troubleshooting to do as there are a couple of supply and warranty issues that I need to sort out with manufacturers, and I have several key customers requiring upgrades to their cars.

DAY FOUR – SPEAK UP

Today is a busy day as I am presenting at Automotive Management’s annual Digital Dealer conference in Warwickshire aimed at helping car dealerships improve their online sales strategies to keep pace with today’s tech-savvy, connected consumers. We are renowned in the car industry for how we use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and online chat forums to connect with, and really engage with potential and existing customers and car enthusiasts throughout the world. I feel proud to be asked to speak at this high-profile event and pass on our knowledge to others.

DAY FIVE – NEVER A DULL MOMENT

It’s been a busy week and it is hard to believe it is Friday already! However, no time to think about the weekend as I’m off to the Morgan factory in Malvern this morning for a meeting to discuss an operating problem for one of our global franchises. On my return to the office, I decide to roll up my sleeves and help detail a couple of the sales cars as the team has been rushed off their feet with new orders in my absence. Towards the end of the day, I get the chance to arrange professional photography for some of our latest stock to upload to our website, and I also manage to talk to every member of our small team, thank them for their hard work, and update them on what’s been happening in the business.

I don’t think I’ve ever quite got to the bottom of my to-do list as there is always something that needs to be done, but when you love what you do and are passionate about it, work never feels like a chore but a way of life.