Bill Graham will retire this month after what has been a rollercoaster career with the world’s leading manufacturer of round, flat and profile wire, a career that saw him start as a maintenance engineer before leading an MBO, overseeing a sale and then bringing the company back into his ownership.
The former machine tool engineering apprentice was also instrumental in growing the Brierley Hill firm’s international presence, travelling the globe to build export sales from nothing to over half of its annual turnover.
He has been chairman for the last nine years, providing strategic guidance on growth opportunities, industry developments and supporting the management team in the firm’s rapid expansion from £8 million in 2013 to £13m at the start of 2022.
“When I joined the business in 1972, I never expected to still be involved 50 years later…Alloy Wire International gets you like that,” explained Bill, who was born in Paisley in Scotland, but now lives in the Wyre Forest.
“There’s just something really special about the business and what we do, especially since we took the decision to be employee-owned. That was really the moment we put the marker in the sand and created the unique culture that has seen AWI become a globally trusted supplier of 60 plus strong range of alloys to more than 7,000 customers.”
He continued: “After five decades of involvement, I felt the time was right to call it a day and focus on retirement. What will that look like? Travelling and spending much more time with my wife Sandra, who I first met at AWI in 1974.”
Bill has enjoyed many achievements during his time at Alloy Wire International, but, if you ask him for the pivotal movement, he will always say it was the moment when he implemented his lifelong dream of introducing employee ownership and profit sharing for every member of staff.
This galvanized the workforce and 23 years on is still in place, with new starters offered the opportunity to join the scheme once they have been with the business for two years.
“When you are on a journey you must take your best assets with you. By showing our employees that everything they did would ultimately benefit them, the culture changed overnight, and I can honestly say we are a family now and that is reflected in how we have grown the huge customer satisfaction levels we achieve.”
Alloy Wire International has recently promoted Tom Mander to managing director, with previous MD Mark Venables moving upstairs to the position of chairman.
This is an exciting next step in the AWI journey and will accelerate its ambition to increase sales from its current £13m level to £15m by the end of the year, with most orders now coming from clients overseas.
Mark Venables went on to add: “Bill Graham is Alloy Wire International and has had an unbelievable 50 years with the business.
“I was invited to lead the company in 2010 and have had the honour of guiding it through some major growth and some really difficult times, including the current Covid-19 pandemic.
“As I was always told, we need to protect the core values that make AWI so special, so we took the decision last year to make Tom Mander, Adam Shaw and Andrew Du Plessis, MD designate, finance director and technical director respectively.
“This was paving the way for the next generation to take over and Tom’s promotion to MD recently is the next step in that process, meaning I can oversee things from the position of chairman with Bill continuing to be on hand to offer us his experience and advice when required.”