Wilsons Auctions offer a complete service from collection, storage, valuation, marketing, refurbishment, auction and distribution of any asset from cars, commercial goods, property to jewellery, planes, boats and everything in between.
Ian Wilson the Managing Director of Wilsons Auctions Ltd has been the driving force in the company for over 40 years. Ian has devoted his time to building the company so it can continue to be passed down through the generations. He left school at 15 and worked with his father selling agricultural machinery via auction. In his early 20’s, he became the owner of Wilsons Auctions and knew there was a huge opportunity to grow and develop the business. He juggled the business with rearing 3 children, all of which are involved in the business today. Ian, now in his early 60’s, is still very much in the driving seat in the business and is always endeavouring to expand the business into new areas.
Wilsons Auctions was originally started in 1936 by Ian Wilson’s father William J. Wilson. In April 1977, the company became Wilsons Auctions Ltd while operating out of premises in Mallusk, Newtownabbey. In 1992 the company moved to their current headquarters, and purpose built auction centre, also in Mallusk, Newtownabbey.
Over the past few decades, the company has seen growth both locally and nationally. In 1987 Wilsons Auctions opened their second dedicated auction centre in Portadown which was then followed by further expansion and purpose built auction centres opening in Scotland, Dublin, England and Wales. Wilsons Auctions have also just registered to open premises in Spain.
Wilsons Auctions currently employ over 300 full time staff and a further 200 on a part time basis across Ireland and the UK, with 140 of those jobs being in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Wilsons Auctions believes in putting back into the local community and economy as much as they get out of it and this ensures their continued growth locally, nationally and internationally.
At present, the company delivers services to an eclectic mix of industry types from banks, financial institutions and government departments to blue chip companies, car manufacturers and private individuals. Their clients include The Home Office, Border Force, AIB, Garda Siochana, PSNI, Ford, Lloyds TSB, DVA / DVLA, Citroen, BMW, Audi, Yorkshire Police, SOCA, HMRC, Revenue Commissioners, Capita, BT, Deloitte, PWC, Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank, Ulster Bank, Courts Service Ireland, Criminal Assets Bureau, An Post, Dublin City Council, Dee Valley Water, DOE, Rivers Agency, Enforcement of Judgements Office, Santander and the Office of Public Works. Their core business is the professional disposal of assets on behalf of an ever increasing client base.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?
My father turned the light bulb on and told me to get out of my bed and get some work done! (I was fond of my bed at 15!)
How did you secure your first investment?
We did not secure outside investment but committed to re-investing profits in the organisation to expand from an early stage. This helped the company grow without outside influence.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
I had siblings involved in the business who wanted it to go in different directions, extracting them from the business was difficult.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
Our first move over to Britain from Northern Ireland, it opened our business to a whole new realm.
Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution?
I feel that a business which, 80 years on, is still a family owned and run business is an interesting and rare circumstance.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Maintaining a ‘family’ feel to the business as it expands nationally and trying to ensure that customers don’t feel that jobs are now too small for the business to be interested in.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
Becoming the first and only auction company in the British Isles to have operations in each one of the Home Nations and hence becoming the largest privately owned auction house in Ireland and the UK.
What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
Best advice – to always do what you say you are going to do. Worst advice – expand as fast as you can.
What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?
Follow your heart and don’t be put off by ‘nay-sayers’. Don’t be afraid to develop someone’s poor version of an idea in to an excellent version of your own.
Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?
Since I can remember – I have always had an eye for an opportunity.
Has anyone acted as a mentor to you?
My parents, they were both very hard workers and I think seeing that at a young age is very important.
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
Definitely, I am very proud to have come from Ireland and I believe wherever in the world anybody from Ireland goes they are always well received.
How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?
I get out and meet people, there are so many business opportunities when you get out and meet as many people as you can and, of course, talking to my team. We don’t hold meeting after meeting we just constantly speak to one another to come up with ideas, I try to encourage everyone within the business to come up with ideas.
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
A bright, easy and inspiring personality; product knowledge is important but can be taught – an engaging personality is vital in business and lots and lots of enthusiasm.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
As we are at the coal face of selling assets as soon as there is any change in the economy good or bad we see it and it’s all about adjusting your service quickly to deal with the change.
What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Courage. Courage to go for something when you think its right for your business and courage to say no when you think it’s not.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?
Anything that helps to save the environment – renewable energy.
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?
Our ability to represent clients locally and nationally and sell any nature of product to buyers from around the world, backed up by good customer service.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
Sleep. Most entrepreneurs will know when you are running a business you have many sleepless nights.
How do you recharge your batteries?
Getting out on my horse. I named him “Business” so that when someone calls me I can say “I’m out on Business”.