The Entrepreneur: Giles English, Bremont Watch Company

The co-founder of the British manufacturing success story discusses working with his "useless" brother, issues with the UK tax system and scaling to revenues of £18m...

Co-founder: Giles English
Company: Bremont Watch Company
Website: www.bremont.com
Description in one line: Watch manufacturer
Previous companies: North Weald Flying Services
Turnover: £18m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Bremont is one of the few British manufactures of high end mechanical wrist watches
  • Working with partners such as Boeing and Jaguar around the world
  • We manage our own distribution and also own our own stores around the world

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Along with my co-founder and brother Nick English, bringing watch manufacturing back to the UK after so many years is our biggest achievement.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

The numbers of watches we are able to manufacture that day and our daily sales but also the web traffic because it determines where we are having marketing success around the world.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We are now exporting about 60% of our product around the world and with a new store opening in New York we envisage this continuing to grow.

Describe your growth funding path:

It took us five years to launch Bremont and by that time the watch business was very cash hungry so we got some angel investors on board. That investment, along with some wonderful support from HSBC has helped us grow.

We were also fortunate enough to get early help from Walpole, a UK-based small-business incubator that pairs up-and-coming luxury brands with mentors from across the British business landscape. We were connected with Andrew Gosheron, Vice President of Field Sales Europe, FedEx. We’re still grateful for everything FedEx did to get our brand airborne as we now have a firm toehold in the Caribbean and the United Arab Emirates, especially in Dubai. We’ve also just opened our second branded boutique in Hong Kong, and are now moving aggressively into the US by selling through a network of highly prestigious, independent retailers and building strategic brand partnerships

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Modern CNC Metal cutting machines have enabled our industry to do so much more in-house. Equally social media has been significant for us, it would have taken 10 years longer to grow our brand without it.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We feel that we don’t necessarily need to go into every country in the world but do want to really grow in our existing markets and have the potential to grow 25-30% per year if we are able to grow our manufacturing operations.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Anything you do in watch making is difficult and we are going through one of our hardest stages at the moment trying to bring back more manufacturing back to the UK.  We’re also trying to build a store in New York… that challenges you!

What was your biggest business mistake?

Working with my brother, he is useless (joke)! I don’t think I can look at any one thing but we constantly try and do too much, which puts us under too much pressure so you can never do things as well as you would like.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

There are too many costs related to hiring people, such as national insurance, so I would make the tax system more beneficial to growing businesses, especially ones which are manufacturing in the UK.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Not focusing enough and having a weak business message so no one knows what the company stands for. Naturally, saying all that, nothing else matyers as much as CASHFLOW.

How will your market look in three years?

The watch market constantly changes and we have smart watches being launched, markets growing and contracting, brands falling in and out of favour. As a result, you have to stay very aware of what;s going on but still stick to what you are doing. I worry more about what will happen in the next 10 years as we work on very long development lead times.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Go and do it but realise it is all about commitment and very hard work. It will always take you three times longer and cost three times more.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My Jaguar F-TYPE

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learnt on the job

What would make you a better leader?

Executive education!

Business book:

Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed

Bremont Watches uses FedEx as its global logistics provider, to find out more about shipping and overseas logistics click here.

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