Wycombe Engineering explores its strategic options through targeted growth advice

New talent, new ideas, new culture

There can’t be many businesses in this world that combine making Hollywood props with plastic widgets for double glazing. And bespoke parts for classic cars. And prototype shoulder pads for American footballers. And medical masks. And that’s only the half of it. You name it, Wycombe Engineering has done it. They are, if you like, the ultimate creative engineering workshop.

Wycombe Engineering is in the game of design, prototyping and single-to-small-batch production. Founded by an engineer and staffed by engineers, they like nothing more than “to roll up their sleeves and solve complex engineering problems”, according to David Milnes, an advisor working for the company. Inventive and ingenious would be good words to describe their output.

But what happens when a company so driven by technical expertise wants to look to the future to matters of strategic direction? How do you figure out which markets you should concentrate on? That’s the challenge that Jim Wetherall, the man behind the company is wrestling with. Now in his mid-50s, Jim is conscious of a desire to create “a bit of a legacy”; to capitalise on recent above-trend growth to bring in new talent, new ideas and even a new culture. He wants to find that sweet spot where the skills of old combine with new technologies. It’s both an interesting and exciting challenge. And it’s one that Buckinghamshire Business First (BBF) have been only too happy to get involved with.

Building the capacity for growth

Engaging with BBF's Growth Programme Advice Service, Jim recognised that they needed to develop and implement a robust strategy that would both set the direction for the kinds of markets they would concentrate on, and build their internal capacity to deliver through people, systems, and processes.

Working with a BBF Business Adviser, a high-level audit was undertaken to identify some of the key issues and outline an approach to solving them. Goals were set around clarifying the value proposition, and developing a growth plan and a people strategy. Meanwhile, potential sources of external expertise, such as HR specialists, were identified to help with the delivery phase. 

Buckinghamshire Business First also saw one big as-yet-unexplored opportunity that could drive substantial new sources of revenue – intellectual property.

As engineering problem-solvers extraordinaire, Wycombe Engineering are in the perfect place to capitalise on that unique skillset by offering production consultancy services to other engineering businesses. Knowing how to go about solving a problem is every bit as valuable as landing on the solution. After all, as the saying goes, if you teach a man to fish… It’s a whole new way of looking at the business and Jim and his team are now exploring how best to push the project forward. While that process is very much ongoing, it’s a good example of the benefits a new set of eyes can bring.

A list of networks worth their weight in gold

For David, who has played a key role in providing management support to Jim, Buckinghamshire Business First’s input has served to expand their horizons about what is possible, and a key part of that is about making professional connections

“I’d say the number one most immediate benefit is access to the wider business community. I've now got a list of a dozen different business networks that we can tap into to find potential collaborators and customers. As we move further into the process, that is going to be worth its weight in gold,” said David.

Opportunities abound, from the Silverstone Technology Cluster to the new Screen Industries Global Growth Hub at Pinewood Studios, and accessing Britain’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. And the first of those – the Silverstone Technology Cluster - is already looking promising. Thanks to an introduction from Buckinghamshire Business First, initial contact has been made and the head of the network is planning to visit the Wycombe Engineering workshop to find out more about what they offer. With around 120 companies all focused within that advanced automotive space and a strong spirit of collaboration amongst them, who knows where that could lead.

David is excited about the future. “I think what I’ve liked about working with a BBF Business Adviser is there’s a good combination of a little bit of theoretical stuff, but also really practical outputs. Together, we’ve homed in pretty quickly on areas that are important to the business, and we’re now in a position to understand and begin to tackle the challenges which can unlock further growth.”