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How You Made It: Interview With Guy Williams, CEO of U-POL

Published: Wednesday 7th October 2020

We recently got the opportunity to sit down with Guy Williams, the CEO of U-POL. In this edition we find out more about his career journey, the lesson’s he’s learned and what it takes to achieve success.

Guy provides some really insightful tips to help job seekers find their way into work. Including how to progress through a company, and eventually make that jump into senior management.

Zoek Interviews Guy Williams

Josh, our video and content executive here at Zoek, sat down with the enthusiastic and proven international business leader last month. With a keen interest in Guy’s expert consumer knowledge and how he channelled that into his previous €1.2bn, multi-channel business.

Guy has a wealth of experience in the retail and manufacturing industry. Starting his career path at a small but budding supermarket called Aldi back in the early 90s. By the end of the decade Guy had progressed to Retail Operations Director and has since gone on to manage within a number of established UK businesses. Finally arriving at the private equity backed and world leader in automotive refinishing products, U-POL, where Guy has worked as the chief executive officer since 2015.

Click below to watch the Q&A interview:

Visit our Zoek YouTube channel and watch the full interview, and listen to what Guy Williams has to say, because his words of wisdom are really insightful!

Top 3 video highlights

Q: You have a real wealth of experience in a variety of different industries how did you find moving from one to the other? (02:43)

I think actually I would say the biggest learning curve for me was going from Aldi to Woolworths. One was a very young dynamic organisation in the UK at the time. You know I think they had 25 stores when I joined, and you can all see where they are now. Whereas Woolworths was a much older business much more stuck in its ways and actually had brilliant people and brilliant product, it just lost its way at a point in time. That was the biggest and hardest transition for me was going from a family-owned very agile business to a very corporate environment.

Moving from Woolworths into ICI, yeah technically it was very different. I’ve never you know never worked in a manufacturing business before but once I got my head around it you know, and I’ve stayed in manufacturing and I don’t really intend to leave it. There’s something I genuinely like about manufacturing businesses and the B2B side of those businesses.

Q: What would you say has been your biggest challenge throughout your career and how did you overcome it? (05:34)

I think I’ve had a number of challenges. Running a business through the recession. I ran the Dulux business through a recession and that was hard. That was the first time that I had to face any kind of restructuring. I was relatively young at the time I was in my late 30s. That was difficult, making people redundant and restructuring an organisation. I think I overcame it because I just did what I always do which is I made sure I was always available to people. I talked to people and I reassured people and I and I tried to get them through it. Which is a little bit like what we’ve done with COVID-19 now.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to build a career in the manufacturing industry especially around automotive refinishing products? (09:31)

If you want a career in marketing, do other roles around it. So, if you want to end up the marketing director of any company, go into sales. Go into logistics for a bit, or go into manufacturing. You know someone did it with me. I was a guy who ran shops. I ran supermarkets and then I became supply chain director. It was the best role I ever had because it made me understand the business end to end.

If you’re interested in learning more about different entrepreneurs work/life experiences, watch more from our guest interview series here.

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