Chief executive Will Butler-Adams keeps a magnum of champagne under his desk in his office at Brompton Bicycle. He says he will only open it when his company sells 50,000 bicycles in a year….and the milestone isn’t far off.
Last year, Brompton sold 46,000 and achieved record revenues of £36m.
When Will joined the business in 2002 – he subsequently led a management buyout in 2008 – the business was turning over £1.6m a year.
Will shared some of the secrets of his success at the latest event in HURST’s Executive Insight programme for entrepreneurs.
More than 50 business people from across the region attended the lunchtime event at Lancashire County Cricket Club.
Tim Potter, chief executive of HURST, welcomed the guests, and Nigel Barratt, head of HURST Corporate Finance, introduced Will.
Under Will’s leadership, Brompton Bicycle has grown from a cottage industry to a global brand – a huge British manufacturing success story.
From modest beginnings in the 1970s when its iconic folding bike was invented by Andrew Ritchie, the London-based business has become the UK’s largest bicycle manufacturer, with 80 per cent of sales now coming through exports.
Brompton recently launched an electric folding bike, developed over six years at a cost of £2.5m.
Will said the first 50 electric bikes were shipped to customers a few weeks ago and Brompton’s factory is producing more on a daily basis.
He told the Executive Insight audience that, if the company gets it right with the product, turnover will be £90m in five years’ time, such is the demand.
Will urged people in business to be ambitious, to invest in research and development and to recruit staff with ideas as well as experience.
“You have to have ambition, to inspire your staff and to keep them driven,” he said.
“Normal gets you nowhere against your competition. Always encourage your staff to be different. If you can afford it, do give new things a go. You can write it off if it goes pear-shaped. If it’s a complete disaster, don’t worry.
“Allow people to have an impact on the business and not be afraid to make mistakes.”
Will said he believes that being privately-owned helps Brompton to maintain its competitive edge, as it enables the company to plan and invest for the long-term.
Having non-executive directors on the board is also beneficial, as they bring perspective to the company, he added.
Brompton’s success is also due to a focus on serving customers well, said Will.
“The board sets the tone for the entire company. If the board is obsessed with the customer, they are protecting shareholder value.”
Will also focused on the importance of overseas sales to Brompton. The business has invested significantly to grow sales in countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore as well as nations closer to home such as Germany.
“The potential for us to grow exports is still significant,” he said.
A constant motivation for Will is being involved in something that makes a difference.
“It’s not about the money, but doing something that makes us feel proud,” he added.
Leading a company which combines engineering excellence with pure passion rightly makes him brim with pride – and that champagne moment is surely just around the corner.