Willersey Provisions is a family run business which has had to weather the storm of a national recession coupled with the challenges of fast changing customer needs. With the help of Paish Tooth they were able not only to get back on their feet, but also to expand their business. Their new tax efficient business model has put them in the ideal position to attract and take on large scale customers, such as the new Gloucester Services on the M5.
Willersey Provisions came into being back in 1986. The company was originally run by Paul Dunkley and three fellow shareholders for the first 15 years. In 2001 Paul bought out his fellow directors and set about introducing his sons James and Thomas into the team. Nowadays James and Thomas run the show, although Paul still oversees things and keeps his hand in by doing some of the van driving.
As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, Willersey Provisions can look back on some significant changes.
What was once a business focusing solely on the sale of bacon has diversified and now supplies ham, sausages, beef and dairy products too, whilst using the latest technology in its production and sales order processing.
It’s fair to say that meat provision is a fairly stagnant industry. There has been no noticeable increase in volume over recent years, and in the trade itself prices are low. Butchers in general are finding life difficult because they have to compete with the cheap meat now found on supermarket shelves. Eating habits have changed – high quality meat and bacon is still very much valued, but it is now considered a luxury item enjoyed by those who relish it as a treat at weekends.
Coupled with this, traditional van sales have been declining. The Willersey Provisions van drivers used to take well over 30 orders a day off the van, but customer needs have changed. Nowadays the van drivers are thought of as delivery drivers, not sales people. The majority of orders now come via the office rather than via the van, which has meant the business has had to adapt in order to meet these changing requirements.
When the national recession hit back in 2008 these shifting market conditions meant things got really tough for Willersey Provisions. They were running with high overheads and reducing turnover, and by the end of that year they were working hard to keep the business afloat.
Patrick Cooper, director of Paish Tooth, had been working with Willersey Provisions for some years. He quickly picked up on the situation, and took the initiative to help implement a recovery plan. Before circumstances got any worse, Patrick made sure the Dunkleys were focused on what they needed to do to get the business back on track. Along with Paish Tooth’s accountant Kristel Naughton, he
helped to educate them about the need to have a strategy in place, and ensured they knuckled down to raise their margins, control their overheads, and become more aware of the structure of the business and how they could improve its profits.
“We always get a straight answer really quickly from Paish Tooth”
Three members of staff resigned from Willersey Provisions in January 2009, which helped to ease their high overheads. Patrick then turned his attention to the pension fund which was attached to the business. He had helped the Dunkleys in setting up the fund, and had ensured the correct structure was in place and that regular contributions were coming in. The family had been paying into the fund for over 10 years, and now Patrick was able to help them reach an understanding of what they should be doing with it. At this stage, the Dunkleys had earned the right to buy the property that they leased for the business. Using the pension fund to buy the building proved to be a very tax efficient solution.
“We rely on Paish Tooth for any financial advice whatsoever! We always ask Paish Tooth first.”
This new sales order processing software helps them to process thousands of transactions a week, and tracks and anticipates orders so that they can work much more flexibly with their customers.
“What’s good about Paish Tooth is that they’re very flexible to changes in our business. If we do something different, they mould with it”.
The Willersey Provisions management team still adhere to Patrick and Kristel’s advice, and now go through their company balance sheet on a regular basis. Over the last five years gross profit has increased by 75% and overall profit by 430%. This tight control of their business finances has given them the confidence to take on a big new customer, Gloucester Services. They now have all the efficiencies in place to meet large demand and create tailored solutions for their customers. Willersey Provisions beat the competition because when Gloucester Services outlined their precise needs, the company could offer to engineer a certain product, in a certain thickness, packed in a certain way and thereby provide a bespoke solution.
As well as winning Gloucester Services as a customer, Willersey Provisions are now offering more flexible solutions to their whole customer base. Customers can create their own account and login via the online store to place their orders. If they forget to add a particular element, a text service is available so they can contact their van driver and then an invoice will be automatically raised the next day. The next stage is to move the drivers from company mobile phones to tablets, so that orders can be raised directly, improving the level of immediacy for the customer. Complex discount structures can now be calculated, providing customers with special offers and allowing Willersey Provisions a lot more flexibility on their sales.
“Paish Tooth has given us the confidence to go forwards. At no point do I think, oh, we can’t do that because Patrick wouldn’t like it. We share a lot of IT knowledge, and a lot of plans for IT software.”
Willersey Provisions now has the financial sustainability to expand its product offering too. The company has just launched a new dry cure bacon, a British product which they produce themselves. They are looking into the purchase of a new unit to provide extra space for the dry curing, and intend to make a real go of it. There’s certainly no holding them back – Paish Tooth has given them the confidence to move their business forwards, and now the company is going from strength to strength.