Tuesday, 05 July 2022
JULIAN GLASSPOLE is the managing director of Vehicle Weighing Solutions in Caversham, with a service hub and installation facility in Chesterfield. Born and raised in Bristol, he came to study at The Henley College when he was 19 and has been here ever since. He lives in Shiplake with his wife Jennifer Benavidez, who is a salsa dance instructor. He is also president of the Henley Conservatives and a keen kayaker.
Describe your business
We specialise in the design, manufacture, installation and service of on-board weighing, bin weighing, overload protection systems and waste management software. Our solutions are used across a range of sectors, from local authorities and private waste management operators, including Biffa and Grundon, to highways, haulage and quarrying companies. These days we are making every effort to get away from burying waste.
How many people does it employ?
We have 150 employees.
What did you do before you started this business?
After finishing my formal education at The Henley College, I went to work in the weighing company owned by my father. Six years later, in 1990, he sold the business so I started up a similar company from a house that I’d bought in the town at 64 Park Road. The company address at the time was Unit 64. As we grew, I was able to move to larger premises and we are now in Caversham.
What was your objective?
I had no choice after my dad sold his business as my job went with it.
Who or what influenced you?
At the time I’d been reading books by Tony Robbins which were very motivational. He gave me the push and confidence to start up on my own. My dad and mum gave me lots of encouragement too.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
I belong to a coaching team called the Strategic Coach, which was founded by Dan Sullivan in 1998. It’s a really outstanding team of coaches and presenters and is a valuable resource for me.
What would you do differently if you could start again?
I would have trusted my gut instinct more and moved into bigger premises earlier. And taken more risks.
What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on your business?
Our turnover is down and we’ve had to furlough 70 employees. We’ve kept research and development still working as we intend to come back fitter, stronger and leaner when things begins to improve. With 30 engineers, we will have to organise as responsibly and carefully as we can by redesigning some of the ways we work. We’ll adapt to the circumstances including working from home where practical.
How is your business doing?
As a direct result of the pandemic we are down by 30 per cent compared with this time last year.
Where is your business headed?
For the next 12 months survival is top of our agenda. Beyond that we will continue to focus on continually improving product quality, service and delivery. We plan to grow organically and through acquisition.
How important are online sales?
Not at the moment. However, we’ve been developing an online store which will go live on June 15.
How do you market your business?
We have a marketing department and a team of sales agents and we exhibit at trade shows and conferences. We use social media a lot and word of mouth is always important.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
It’s a real privilege to have ideas and make decisions and then be able to see them through to fruition.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Learning how to understand accounts and to be honest with staff and customers
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Even in these challenging times, go for it. There’s never a right time to start a business. If you can make it through this you’ll definitely succeed.
What qualities are most important to success?
Always trying to put my customers and their needs first.
What’s the secret of your success?
Believing in myself, honesty and hard work.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Not trusting my instincts to the degree I should have.
How organised are you?
I know my own weaknesses but for the last 18 years I’ve had a great PA who is an excellent team member. I do keep a strict diary.
How do you dress for work each day?
If I’m seeing customers I’ll wear a suit. If not, I normally wear smart casual.
What can’t you be without every day?
My wife Jennifer.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
We have a canteen for all our employees and I generally eat there. I discourage people from eating at their desks. It’s important that they take a break.
What do you read?
I often read blinkist, which is a professional book summary service. These enable me to understand the key insights of non-fiction books in about 15 minutes. The author Simon Kernick also lives in Shiplake and writes great thrillers — I’ve read all his books. I also read the Henley Standard every week.
How are you planning for retirement?
I’ve no plans to retire. I love what I do. I may just work fewer days.
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