Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Case Study: Like Father, like daughter

Bentoria Works may look like a sleepy, industrial unit but inside it’s a hive of activity. The music is playing, the kettle is boiling and the phones are ringing.

The bright yellow office is divided in half, one side distinctly masculine - the other is a mass of pink.

The masculine side of the office belongs to Bill Wood, who owns and runs WT Wood Machinery Ltd, alongside his wife Barbara. The pinker side belongs to Bill’s daughter, Victoria Wood: owner of Fairy Communications.

“I always wanted to be self-employed,” Victoria says, “having seen my Dad run his own successful company, I wanted to do the same. I knew that it would be hard work; I’d seen how many hours my Dad had put in over the years, but I also saw the rewards.”

Having worked in public relations since leaving school, Victoria certainly has the experience: “My first ‘proper’ job was doing all of the PR and marketing for an insolvency practitioner,” She says, “I was at management level and I worked really long hours. The pressure and the hours didn’t really bother me though, I thought that was pretty normal – having seen my Dad work 12 hour days. I presumed that was what everybody did, I was just glad to have my Saturdays free to watch the football.”

Still in her early twenties, Victoria was determined to make her company a success and is making quite a name for herself on the Sheffield networking scene. “I’m quite lucky to know some very influential people in business, through my Dad especially. Since working in the same office as him, I’ve seen just how professional and successful he is. People respect him as being one of the best in his field and that’s what I want to achieve.”

“I watch my Dad across the office and he’s constantly doing something, whether on the phone, flicking through machinery magazines or on his computers. He literally never stops – I don’t know where he gets his energy from, he’s been doing this for over 25 years.”

Bill set up his company, with his wife, in the early eighties - shortly before Victoria was born. Since then, he’s grown the business to being a respected, worldwide machinery dealer. Based at the epicenter of Sheffield’s industrial quarter, Petre Street, he deals with businesses from Sheffield to Bahrain. Dealing mainly with fabricating and machine tools: Bill travels across the globe to source the best deals.

“Last week he was in Carlsrow, Germany, for an exhibition. The office was certainly quieter and I has to turn up my music to drown out the silence.” Victoria laughs, “When he’s in, there’s always a colleague or friend calling on the phone or popping in for a coffee. It was nice to be able to work in peace!”

Bill doesn’t just stop at buying and selling machinery; he also organises dismantling, delivery, implementation and exporting. Recently, he’s been dealing with companies in the North East of the UK right through to Korea. He’s also planning a trip to the USA to visit a machinery factory in Los Angeles that he’s been dealing with.

“It does all sound very glamorous, but I’d imagine a factory in LA is pretty similar to one in Sheffield!” Victoria says, “So in that sense, I’m not jealous at all... Well, maybe a little bit!”

So, what changes has Victoria brought to Bentoria Works? There was only one person to speak to: her Dad.

“It’s certainly a lot noisier,” Bill laughs, “She’s always buzzing in and out to meetings, or sat writing one of her magazine columns at her desk. Her energy is infectious and she’s a really hard worker. She’ll get into the office first thing in a morning and there have been occasions where she’s found herself locked in – as she’s been there until really late at night.”

“She does keep herself to herself, I know she does a lot of writing and that requires deep concentration. She puts her music on and types furiously. Occasionally, during a bout of writer’s block, she’ll have a quick chat about football or something – but then she’s straight back on with her work.”

Victoria is also a regular at local business networking events, specifically 4Networking: she is the operations assistant at the Hillsborough group. “Her networking means a lot of early starts, and a lot of food,” Bill smiles, “I’ve never seen her be on such a health-kick as she is recently; she’s very conscious of all those cooked breakfasts!”

“On a positive side; she’s always telling me about how many fantastic contacts she’s made. She’s only been a member for a few weeks but already she is seeing a fantastic return. I think she’s a bit of a well-known face at events now; she’d go to the opening of a jar if she was invited!”

Despite Victoria still being in her early twenties, Bill is impressed with her attitude to work, saying; “She has put in 110% since she decided to start the company. She’s always had fantastic jobs and she’s lucky to be able to channel all of the positives she has learnt into her own business.”

“If Victoria answers the phone when people ring our office, people often ask me if she works for me now. I’m very proud to say that she doesn’t and that, in fact, she works for herself. She’ll do extremely well and she really is one to watch. As her Dad, you’d probably expect me to say that – but I’d tell her if she was wasting her time and money. She isn’t, and if she continues like this she’ll be very very successful.”

“She’s seen first-hand how difficult running a business can be, she’s grown up in that situation. I know she won’t take it for granted and I look forward to celebrating her company’s first birthday in October with her.”