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VW Heritage: Portrait of an ethical business

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In a small town on the edge of the South Downs National Park, the VW Heritage premises rubs shoulders with the kind of functional warehouse buildings you’d expect to find in a generic UK business park.

But VW Heritage is anything but generic. A forward thinking company, proud of its values, community engagement and CSR record. VW Heritage helps enthusiasts keep, restore and care for their classic VW vehicles by sourcing and selling genuine VW classic parts and quality reproduction spares for out of production models.

The company story is a compelling one: a satisfying rags to riches tale. It all began in the 1980’s when, at 24, David became a father. Driven by a need to support his family he began making regular trips to Amsterdam to buy vans, which he “did up” and sold on the South Bank to Aussies travelling around Europe.

As the popularity of classic and vintage cars grew, so did a gap in the automotive market for spare parts for out of production vehicles and he saw an opportunity, and seized it.

Today VW Heritage is a thriving business with a great reputation, 53 staff, a premises of 20,000 square ft, with plans to expand and an annual turnover of £8m.

In a first floor open plan office there is not a suit in sight. The warehouse works to the sound of employees’ favourite songs on “VW Heritage radio”, a table football game entertains during lunch breaks, and a couple of dogs wander nonchalantly about.
The hubbub of a vibrant working team is infectious.

“Do all the staff have VWs?” I ask marketing manager Andy as he shows me the warehouse below: row upon row of VW parts, from the tiniest screw to the front of a campervan.

“Yep, more or less,” Andy says “It’s quite important to be into VWs if you work here. We strive to deliver excellent customer service; when asked for help we can offer advice based on first hand experience.”

Their motto, ‘run by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts’ is clearly not just a piece of empty marketing then, and although VW Heritage are hot on service, the directors consider care for employees to be equally important.

Managing Director David Ward says, “Customers are important, but staff are too, if they are happy, they work well. It’s all about people and having good people around you”

I wonder whether there is any glass ceiling on growth when this kind of ethos is so central to strategy?

“There is no limit to growth” David says, “but what needs to be carefully controlled is the speed of that growth. If growth is too fast you lose touch with the culture.”

Marketing Manager Andy agrees “The culture at VWH is good, it’s a great place to work. And although there is a hierarchy, there are no divides between levels of responsibility, everyone is equally treated, and all staff will equally be heard, and given the chance to grow within the company.”

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