Thursday 31 January 2013

Interview with Brompton MD, Will Butler-Adams

A few weeks ago Top Gear's James May was kind enough to grant an interview in which he answered some questions about his Brompton. It has proved to be very popular. 

Hot on the heels of this, I asked the Managing Director of Brompton Bicycle, Will Butler-Adams if he would be prepared to answer a few questions. As I am sure you are aware, Will is an incredibly busy man but somehow he managed to find the time to answer my questions.

The brief was simple. I put 15 questions to Will, with the expectation that he answer only those questions he had the time or wanted to answer. I am happy to report that Will answered all 15 questions and his responses certainly make interesting reading.

1) What sort of Brompton(s) do you own? (M - type, colour, gearing). Was it off the peg or bespoke?

I ride an M3L which is about 15yrs old, black black. I got it out of the skip in my early days at Brompton when too much stuff was being thrown away and to make an example I took this one out that had been 'scrapped' and repaired it. It has done me proud ever since!

2) Since you joined Brompton, what for you have been the biggest changes in terms of manufacturing, the image of Brompton and sales?

The principals are the same we try to make a great bike that do what you ask of it and a bit more. We have applied more best practice to the manufacturing process and really nurtured and cherished the special elements of our bike, such as the brazing. On the sales front this come from our customers who like yourself are kind enough to tell others that the Brompton really does work!

3) When I have attended events such as the recent Nocturne Folding Bike Race or BWC, Brompton staff are always out in force and ultra competitive. Is this something that is encouraged or natural? Who is the most competitive?

We ride our bikes and like many Brompton owners love racing them as so many people don't realise what an effective bike the Brompton bike is. On the competitive front there is a lot of banter in the office about where we all come relative to each other and I am well and truly part of that. After a stunning ride in 2011 at the BWC I had a seriously bad ride last year and was beaten by a tonne of staff and am enduring the constant reminding on a daily basis. I am on a mission for BWC 2013, have started the training and for the first time have 'click in's'!

4) Why do you think Brompton owners (me included) are so enthusiastic about the Brompton brand and their bikes in general?

I am not sure that the owners are enthusiastic about the brand that is a side line.  What makes, you and me love our bikes, is that they are so incredibly useful and make our lives a happier place.

5) What is the best time you have achieved at the Brompton World Championships? Do you enjoy taking part in these sort of events?

2012, can't quite remember but on the web, I was about 90th out of over 600! I love it and it is serious but serious fun.

6) Brompton is doing very well exporting overseas. Do you see this as the future of Brompton's continued success? Is the domestic market still important?

The future is to keep innovating and making a product that does what it say on the tin and to look after our customers for the entire life of the product they buy from us. If we can do this we will keep having customers in the UK and overseas.

7) Occasionally strange rumours of what Brompton might release next seem to surface. One I heard was a 20 inch wheel version. What is the strangest rumour you have heard that definitely will not happen?

That we will get in to making push chance.

8) If Andrew Richie was pitching to 'Dragon's Den' about his idea for a folding bike, now do you think he would fair?

I suspect they would laugh at him and send him away. Remember he did in a way do a Dragons Den the 10 years he spent trying to get manufacturers and financial backers to support him, in their droves they all said no and it was only an enthusiastic customer Julian Vereker who came to the rescue!!

9) There is a serious amount of engineering behind the design and manufacturing of a Brompton bike. Do you think Brompton gets the recognition it deserves?

You are right the engineering in the Brompton is immense but most of our customers are not interested in this nor do they need to be. The important thing is that all that effort  delivers a product that is seamless, convenient and exceeds the customers' expectations.

10) Where do you see Brompton in five years time in terms of design, manufacturing and sales?

Making great bikes in the UK and continuing to evolve and support our customers.

11) As an engineer yourself, have you made a contribution to the ever improving design of the Brompton bicycle?

I have never not been involved in the development and design of the bike since the day I arrived. It goes with the territory.

12) How does Brompton get on with other manufacturers of folding bikes?

I would say that we are not really massively 'in' the wider bicycle industry. We tend to get on with what we are doing and worry about our customers. Much of the industry is involved in recreation and fashion, selling to bicycle enthusiasts. The majority of our customers are simply fed up with having their nose in someone's armpit in the tube or moving along at snail's pace in a car crossing a city and get so frustrated that they finally give the bike a go. Most bikes don't work for them as they are too inflexible so they give the Brompton a try and in many cases are liberated and love it!

13) As the MD / someone who works for Brompton, are you forever getting asked to try and get a discount for people?

Luckily not too often, in many cases thanks to the Bike to Work scheme which is hard to beat.

14) The Brompton Toolkit is a wonderful piece of engineering. How did it come about?

We wanted one!

15) Can you give the readers of my humble blog a snippet of inside information/an exclusive  regarding any of Brompton's future plans?

We now have over 180 staff and I am currently about 20 short of knowing all of our staff names but having been told that after 100 you lose track I am determined not to stop trying.
Business is good, we continue to have a lot of fun and plan to be around for a long time to come.

Some really great responses from Will and I am sure that lots of you fellow Bromptonians will like this interview a great deal. 

A very big thank you to Will for agreeing to this and answering my questions. He must be extremely busy but if anything he typifies the customer friendly approach that Brompton have become synonymous for.

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