Role and company:Co-founder, Wilson Vale
Growth forecast for the next three years:A key part of our culture has been slow growth to safeguard our ethos. Year-on-year, we have seen a 10 to 15 per cent growth rate over the past ten years so we forecast similar results over the next three years, taking our annual turnover to approximately £22m by 2016.
In fewer than 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace?Steady growth, high quality and a craft-focussed ethos defines us from our competitors.
What’s the big vision for your business?We want to retain our core values and a sensible balance while continuing to grow steadily. That may seem a bit pedestrian but we feel very passionate about holding onto what makes Wilson Vale different. We won’t compromise our food and service standards in the interest of better growth or margins. The goal is to remain private, personal and small. I think we all feel most comfortable when we can touch the sides.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:The biggest career setback I have ever experienced was being politely asked to leave my first job after just twelve months. It was my first position within the hospitality industry after leaving college. I was 19 and thrown completely in the deep end, without any induction, training, mentoring or support. It was a case of “here are the keys, now get on with it.” It was a hard and valuable lesson and I learned that a symbiotic culture is absolutely the only way to run a business properly. It really enforced the need to give staff solid training and support.
What makes you mad in business today?Employment legislation is incredibly frustrating and challenging in that the balance seems to have shifted too far, resulting in traumatic and costly outcomes for companies. Every good employer wants to do the right thing but current legislation, particularly TUPE , means that we are forced to inherit problematic staff and have to bear the consequences.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?The food service sector has changed beyond recognition over the past ten years, particularly food in the workplace, which has seen a shift from canteen food to restaurant standards. We will be faced with an increasingly sophisticated customer-base and continued competitive challenges from the High Street.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?This is not something I feel able to comment on as I have no knowledge of the difficulties involved. We are fortunate in that we are a cash generative business with low capital outlay so external funding has never been an issue.
How would others describe your leadership style?That’s a tricky one. I suppose I like to think of myself as being warm, open, friendly and optimistic although Carolyne Vale (my wife and co-founder) may have something different to say. I’m very enthusiastic and responsive and love to bring out the best in people and acknowledge and reward them because there is no doubt about it, it’s our people who make us different. We are very fortunate to have happy, motivated teams who genuinely seem to enjoy their jobs.
Your biggest personal extravagance?I strive to have half an hour with a quality coffee and The Daily Telegraph once a week. Apart from that, my complete indulgence is to go to the Geneva Motor Show every year. Beautiful cars, fresh, clean air and gorgeous surroundings, what more can I say?
You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:Reduce the stranglehold of current employment legislation and encourage more incentive taxation breaks for entrepreneurship and innovation. Continue to make tough decisions on debt reduction targets and getting people back to work. Last but not least, reduce personal taxation to restore consumer confidence and encourage spend.
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