Andy Woods stepped off the corporate ladder to join independent UK brewer Adnams 14 years ago. Having steered the company to sales of £50 million, the managing director believes that in business clarity is everything
Andy Woods stepped off the corporate ladder to join independent UK brewer Adnams 14 years ago. Having steered the company to sales of £50 million,
the managing director believes that in business clarity is everything
You have to deliver on your promises. I had a good career at a financial services company but I left because the organisation was saying one thing and doing another. It reached a point where we had to take our sales team off the road for mis-selling and I decided to seek pastures new. I saw an advert for a position at Adnams and I thought I could make an impact.
The organisation was very different back then. I went in at just below board level and was responsible for purchasing, customer service and logistics. As a business, it had reached the point when it needed to change the way it operated if it wanted to grow.
Previously – and this is in no way a criticism – it had been a top-down organisation. In a sense, it was something of an autocracy and, ultimately, it was time to change, otherwise the company would have gone out of business.
Certainly, our operations had to be looked at. Our distribution and stock were spread across the South East of England. That led to indifferent levels of customer service, so we had to reorganise all of that – closing down some of those operations to focus on our cultural home at Southwold (East Anglia). That had the effect of improving our cash flow because we had less stock in the system, and it enhanced our customer service. After that, we could reinvest in marketing and build a consumer brand.
I think the organisations I worked at previously gave me a good grounding. Primarily, I found that leadership is often lacking in the business world and people often fail to reach their full potential. To lead effectively, you have to create a culture where others can take risks, learn and grow.
As far as I’m concerned, a lot of the leadership training out there is neither worth the time or money spent on it. Over the years, I’ve realised that people with drive, motivation and a good attitude are often better than those who simply meet the technical requirements of a role.
Empowering people is a bumpy ride; you have to accept that mistakes will be made, but ultimately performance will improve.
This company has been around for over 130 years. It’s come through world wars, depressions and recessions. The purchasing decision of our customers is not a distress purchase, unlike a financial services product. One of the things that attracted me to the business is that people buy the product for the simplest of reasons: they want to.
We’ve worked hard on our brand. A lot of growing companies seriously underestimate how important it is to get this aspect of the business spot on. We’ve invested in an environmentally friendly distribution centre and we sponsor and keep beaches clean in the Southwold area.
This adds to the authenticity of the business, as these kinds of projects must run through the DNA of the organisation. Creating this identity has been a real benefit as we’ve diversified into other areas, such as selling wine and kitchenware. In addition to this, we own 80 hotels, although the tenants own and run the businesses.
My real pet hate in business is inconsistency: saying one thing and doing another. I listen to CEOs and other senior people and can sometimes see an appetite that leads to ill-considered acquisitions and short-term decision-making. It’s about generating a thrill for the senior executives, rather than what’s important for the shareholders.
Now, the focus for us is to concentrate on making all the bits work in difficult economic circumstances. What I have found, and really valued, in the last few months is the contribution that older people can make to the business.
You can’t underestimate how valuable people are who have knowledge that is cut and polished by experience – companies denude themselves of this at their peril.