From sustainability to specialist services, Martin Williams has set its sights on continued success 

Martin Williams (Hull) Ltd (Martin Williams) is one of the UK’s leading providers of commercial and specialist vehicle services, including body build, accident repair, paint, and maintenance divisions. The company celebrated 30 years in 2020 and supplies a diverse range of market sectors, ranging from industry and commerce to the UK government, law enforcement and defense. 

“In the last five years,” begins Chris Williams, Director, “we’ve had continued growth in the business and seen many changes in the industry including the start of EV commercial vehicle sales. We now have a secondary site in Scotland that specializes in more bespoke builds, aimed at the security, utility, and MOD sectors. We have had to change some of our manufacturing methods to meet the demands of EVs and have put continuous investment into our R&D for these new products.” 

The pandemic was a scary time for the organization, presenting challenges and uncertainty, but as Chris explains: “It was also a time to stop and think about the way we run the business, which led to us making changes to improve operations for the future. We identified areas in which we could make cost and efficiency savings for when we were able to get back to business. 

“We have been through change and experienced setbacks, but as a family-owned organization, we have always dealt well with crisis management and leadership. Another big change during that time was my father’s decision to retire. Martin wanted to take more time away from the business and enjoy life while still being in the background to advise and help Nick and myself.” 

Chris and Nick Williams have been involved in the family firm from a young age, helping their father and gaining the best grounding by working on their own vehicles.  

Chris continues: “We both began an apprenticeship in the late 90s: Nick with the family business and me with Thompson Vauxhall. These opportunities enabled us to develop the practical knowledge required to do our jobs and to gain a solid understanding of how to develop the business moving forward. In 2003, Martin Williams became a limited company and with it, Nick and I were both made directors. While a massive responsibility at an early age, it was something we both relished.  

Recruitment drive 

“Our biggest challenge as directors is, of course, the day-to-day management of the business. We strive to have the right management team around us to assist with everything from delivering on customer expectation to managing cash flows and staff numbers. Our team does a fantastic job, handling many large contracts. Although we are heavily involved, we would not be the company we are today without them,” Chris enthuses.  

“With some older staff members retiring, the business has taken on new apprentices to learn the trades and plug the gap. We work with local colleges to recruit staff and try to take on at least three apprentices per year. We offer in-house training and pair up every new member of staff with an experienced colleague. We have also recently showcased the business at a local school to advertise what we can offer potential candidates.” This recruitment drive has proved very successful and will be repeated. 

Chris continues: “The most rewarding aspect of my role is seeing staff learn different trades from scratch, watching them come into the business with the correct attitude and a willingness to learn, then developing their skill sets to the point where they are finishing their own jobs with pride and care. I also take great pride in seeing customers return to us when they’ve been happy with the quality and delivery of our service.”  

The business has recently invested in new equipment for the workshop including welders, fabrication equipment, a wheel alignment system for the accident repair and maintenance department, and most recently, a heat inductor to assist in straightening chassis on the commercial jig.  

“Later this year, we will be transferring the business onto a new data management system called SAPs which will massively transform everything we do and bring long term efficiency benefits and savings.  

“Our company culture has never been better. We try to maintain the family feel no matter how much the company grows, and we work with all our staff to create a friendly, collaborative atmosphere with a common goal of delivering quality workmanship in a timely manner.” 

Investing in the future 

While the sector is not renowned for being the most environmentally sustainable, Martin Williams strives to recycle and reuse as much waste as possible. The facility is fitted with solar panels and LED lighting to reduce energy consumption and costs and its overall impact on the environment.  

“EV vehicles are the future, and we are heavily invested in ramping up the work we do within that field. We have installed two EV charging points at the site so we can charge our own vehicles as can visiting customers,” he elaborates. 

“The manufacturing industry has thrived since the pandemic largely due to shortage of supply and increased customer demand. In our sector, the vehicle shortage has driven an upsurge in buying and in turn, increased our workload in terms of rigid vehicle bodies. That said, several businesses have wound down operations due to increased materials, utility, and labor costs. As such, I envisage 2024 being a challenging time for keeping costs down and maintaining competitiveness.  

“I do predict another year of growth however, while balancing a heathy profit margin with sustainability and investing in future talent. In five years,” Chris concludes, “I would like to see the business in an even healthier position, financially, with greater growth and the potential to bring other organizations under the Martin Williams umbrella.”