Why People Are Still The Heart of the Business

Patrick Skilton- Senior Commercial Manager at Williams & Co /

Tell Me About Where You Work

Williams & Co. sells plumbing and heating materials to the trade. We have an extremely clear model in that we sell at a single fixed price allowing for stability for our customers when quoting jobs. But we are as much about people as we are the products!

What do you value most about working for Williams?

So if I had to give you one word that summed up what makes it a special place to work, it would simply be ‘People’. Every person is valued highly and is treated equally and this is the absolute core of the business.

My career at Williams & Co. began in 2007 as a driver at the Guildford branch. I progressed to Manager of the Aldershot branch before taking a year out to travel. On my return I moved to the south coast to work in the Commercial Department and that is where I have remained for the past 8 years. I have been provide with opportunities to grow and develop my skills in order to progress my career that I am not sure I would have received elsewhere.

The business has many loyal employees who have their own versions of my path and there are those who exceed 25 years of service! So why do people enjoy working here so much? Williams & Co. was founded by Mick Williams and for a number of years was run by Mick, some of his family members and a very tight knit group of colleagues. As the business has grown and in particular beyond the management buy out in 2015, it has been imperative that the company keeps the family values that helped to make the company so great in the first place. This is an every day project across the business but there is a clear measure of the success in the fact that over 60% of employees own shares in the business. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to work in a commercial team?

If you are thinking about a career in a commercial team my advice would be to be bold, back yourself and do the unexpected. As Bill Taylor put it, ‘zig while others zag’.

How has Coronavirus affected you or Williams?

On a personal level, I have been working from home since mid March as per the guidance. I am sure I'm echoing many parents when I say that working from home with young children in the house is both a pleasure and a difficulty at times. I do believe however that there are certainly some benefits to be had for both employer and employee, mostly regarding work-life balance that should be explored.

A Year on from now I expect Williams & Co. to have recovered and improved our sales performance to beyond that of our pre Covid-19 figures. As with most businesses we have taken a dramatic loss of sales, however unlike some industries, construction was specifically guided to stay open where it was safe to do so by the government. As a result we have not experienced an absolute drop of sales. We have worked hard throughout the lockdown period to ensure that we have been able to maintain a safe service for our customers, working in line with guidance from the Builders Merchant Federation and the government. We are working with customers, suppliers and competitors (in relation to social distancing and safety in stores) to ensure that as an industry we are ready to bounce back when the time is right.

Looking beyond C-19, we will launch our new and improved website this year in spite of the disruption of the first half of the year and I am looking forward to seeing how this enhanced site benefits the business.

Of course there are the risks of a second wave of C-19, a prolonged local or global recession, a rise in unemployment levels among others but we are confident that we have the right teams to navigate these situations if they do arise. 

Given the choice of anyone in the world, which three people would you want as dinner guests and why?

My 3 Dinner guests would have to be…. Arsene Wenger, Mo Farah and Richard Branson. All three have the winning combination of calculated and strategic planning, going beyond the impossible and entrepreneurism.

If you had to sum up working with The Graphic Design House- what would you say?

Working with TGDH has become an extension of working with my colleagues from within our business. We have built a strong understanding of each others businesses which I believe is vital to the success of both parties. Their collaborative approach fits well with our company ethos.