Author Topic: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams  (Read 1522 times)

London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« on: January 22, 2019, 06:42:00 pm »
Shamelessly lifted from LFGSS.
Talk / question session by Brompton's CEO.
Feb 26th.
18:00 / 19:00
Imperial College in That London
Free.
Apply for tix here before Jan 28th:
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/engineering/schoolofdesignengineering/eventssummary/event_19-12-2018-10-57-8

Gattopardo

  • Lord of the sith
  • Overseaing the building of the death star
Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2019, 07:46:05 pm »
Im in the draw and going to show him how rusty his frames get.

whosatthewheel

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2019, 08:05:07 am »
I don't see the issue.

I met him a few years back, he is an incredibly enthusiastic person. I can see why he focusses on London. It's pretty much the only sizeable city in the country which has some kind of vision of transport that includes bicycles... and he makes city bicycles.

With that in mind, you can hire a Brompton in other cities, I have hired one in Birmingham in the past. There is a reasonable network of docking stations in the city centre, but I never see anyone using them.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2019, 08:14:19 am »
I've signed up. I don't ride a Brompton, but it looks like an interesting talk about his style of running a company and grand visions.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2019, 05:57:35 pm »
It must be difficult doing that job with Andrew Ritchie looking over your shoulder, assuming they still maintain a drawing board and office for him.  There must be 101 design improvements that they daren't make.
Never tell me the odds.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2019, 06:29:58 pm »
I thought that Ritchie was basically retired from the company. They may let him fiddle about but he has no influence anymore.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2019, 08:10:08 pm »
It must be difficult doing that job with Andrew Ritchie looking over your shoulder, assuming they still maintain a drawing board and office for him.  There must be 101 design improvements that they daren't make.
Drawing board?
What on earth is a drawing board? [/decrepitJP]

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2019, 08:21:43 pm »
With that in mind, you can hire a Brompton in other cities, I have hired one in Birmingham in the past. There is a reasonable network of docking stations in the city centre, but I never see anyone using them.

Brummies use the Brompton Dock for one of two things:  a) to have a play with a Brompton  or  b) to obtain a folding bike in order to jump on a train to somewhere else.

The docks all being within easy walking distance in the city centre makes them of limited use to locals.  They're theoretically useful to visitors arriving from elsewhere, if they're not put off by the extremely cycle-hostile roads (which make That London seem pleasant).

This is all a bit of a shame, because the Birmingham hire Bromptons have the best paint colour.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

whosatthewheel

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2019, 08:38:40 am »
With that in mind, you can hire a Brompton in other cities, I have hired one in Birmingham in the past. There is a reasonable network of docking stations in the city centre, but I never see anyone using them.

Brummies use the Brompton Dock for one of two things:  a) to have a play with a Brompton  or  b) to obtain a folding bike in order to jump on a train to somewhere else.

The docks all being within easy walking distance in the city centre makes them of limited use to locals.  They're theoretically useful to visitors arriving from elsewhere, if they're not put off by the extremely cycle-hostile roads (which make That London seem pleasant).

This is all a bit of a shame, because the Birmingham hire Bromptons have the best paint colour.

It isn't (wasn't) without issues... we used it in 2017 and I got charged a fortune for allegedly not returning a bike. I was then refunded, but it was a hassle. On a different occasion the code supplied didn't work... I think their IT needed sorting, hopefully it is better now.

The bikes were good though, in fact both my wife and I have one now  :thumbsup:

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2019, 01:55:30 pm »
The signing-up process went wrong for me, and I accidentally bought a Brompton before I got round to sorting it out.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2019, 05:49:26 pm »
So I have orange cardboard sorted for this; I will have to be at Euston to catch a 9pm train, but is there any interest in a YACF swift half afterwards? IC Union Bar? Queen's Arms?

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2019, 08:21:55 pm »
That was very good.
I felt that WBA only scratched the surface of what he could’ve delivered.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2019, 09:18:41 pm »
That was very good.
I felt that WBA only scratched the surface of what he could’ve delivered.

Yes; 45 minutes wasn't really enough - I really wanted to know more about the engineering polymers in the electric hub, and what exactly Williams had helped them re-engining. He came across as rather visionary, but I couldn't decide whether he'd be awesome or a bit of a nightmare to work for. I take his point about how overly-rule-bound lowest-common-denominator procedures can stifle innovation and creativity, but equally 'We're fun! We're zany! We don't do rules!' is sometimes unfortunately a cover for some pretty abusive working environments.

Also, having not met face-to-face I only twigged who you were as you were leaving, so didn't introduce myself, sorry! (I was the tall bearded bloke with the 'cyclists stay awesome' t-shirt.)


Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2019, 09:29:09 pm »
That was very good.
I felt that WBA only scratched the surface of what he could’ve delivered.

Yes; 45 minutes wasn't really enough - I really wanted to know more about the engineering polymers in the electric hub, and what exactly Williams had helped them re-engining. He came across as rather visionary, but I couldn't decide whether he'd be awesome or a bit of a nightmare to work for. I take his point about how overly-rule-bound lowest-common-denominator procedures can stifle innovation and creativity, but equally 'We're fun! We're zany! We don't do rules!' is sometimes unfortunately a cover for some pretty abusive working environments.

Also, having not met face-to-face I only twigged who you were as you were leaving, so didn't introduce myself, sorry! (I was the tall bearded bloke with the 'cyclists stay awesome' t-shirt.)
Sorry likewise.
I was sat in the row behind you and had clocked your t-shirt.
For reasons not entirely clear to me, I thought you may've had a connection to the Cyclehoop crew.
Regardless of which, I thought it to be a very good evening.

ETA - FWIW I did introduce myself to a pair of randoms, asking if they were anything to do with YACF.
They weren't.
How we laughed.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2019, 07:40:18 pm »
They probably think it's a swingers' club.

Wait...it IS?
Never tell me the odds.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2019, 12:04:09 pm »
Is there a video online for provincial persons?

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2019, 12:10:51 pm »
As far as I'm aware there wasn't anyone shooting a video of this.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2019, 07:42:25 pm »
I didn't notice any recording either; for the dubious benefit of those who are interested herewith my notes:

Butler-Adams joined the company by accident; he was working for ICI managing chemical plants in the North-East, and had done an MBA, and then on a coach journey got chatting to a friend of Andrew Ritchie (and Brompton Chairman), who asked him to come and help improve the Brompton factory's efficiency. The company was surviving, but it was in unsuitable premises, holding too much stock, and had antiquated machinery. (One anecdote was that the only large pillar drill the company had was a c. 1890 belt-driven model that Ritchie had picked up cheap and fitted with a jury-rigged electric motor and belt. When the company moved premises they tried giving it to an industrial museum but they didn't want it; Butler-Adams now wishes they'd kept it for display.) Back then the company had about 23 staff; these days it's got about 300 staff and a turnover of ~£43m; they make about 300 bikes a day in their new Greenford factory, and still have capacity to expand production there.

He'd brought an e-Brompton with him as a demonstrator - he said though they said in their press releases it had been under development for 6 years, in reality it was more like 10; they'd spent about £2.5m on development, with Williams (the F1 company) helping them lighten the bike. He mentioned (and this was something I really wish he'd been able to expand on!) that the electric motor had an epicyclic gearbox; Williams had pointed them at a US company that made gearboxes for UAVs, and Brompton had found a UK company making engineering polymers that were suitable for the gears.

He talked about innovation, and about the importance of innovation beyond the purely technical. Examples were Brompton working hours; though they work a 40-hour week, you can either do this over 5 days a week, 4.5 days a week, or do 80 hours over 9 working days (i.e. every other Friday off). Another thing was what he called the 'fuck-it fund'* - from his time doing project management at ICI he'd learned that the projections for the financial upside of a project could be varied hugely and near-invisibly by minor tweaks to the assumptions; as a result, predicted ROI is basically a made-up number. On the other hand, he said, you can generally predict worst-case losses quite accurately. The fuck-it fund is basically written off at the beginning of the year, and is used to cover the potential losses of any speculative project; any profits are then gravy. It started out as a £5K fund, and these days the fund is £250K, with projects able to bid for £50K at a time. This was how the Brompton docks started, though he said they've spent about £3m on them to date.

He was also interesting on the marketing; he doesn't like to spend big money on ad campaigns, and would rather spend money on relatively cheap events like the Brompton World Championships that are fun and generate their own publicity. 'Fun' was a concept that cropped up a couple of times, often contrasted with the grey, boring way that business usually operated. As noted in a previous post, I couldn't decide whether he'd be great and visionary or possibly a bit of a nightmare to work for; maybe both?

They have 1,500 dealers worldwide, but the Brompton Junction concept stores were an attempt to try and target the 95% of people that wouldn't go into a bike shop (his stats were that 4% of Londoners are 'cyclists', but 99% know how to ride a bike). The gender balance for Brompton Junctions wasn't quite 50/50, but was getting close.

In the last bit of the talk he got more evangelical about the value of bikes for cities; over half of the world's populations live in them, but there are huge problems about health, air quality, etc. - nothing new and earth-shattering for YACF denziens, but interesting to see a successful MD making these kinds of arguments.

*In general he was quite entertainingly sweary, and not the kind of polished spokesperson you might have expected.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2019, 07:23:09 am »
Thanks for that ^, Jakob.

Re: London-centric talk by Will Butler-Adams
« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2019, 11:16:13 pm »
...for the ... benefit of those who are interested herewith my notes....
Thanks, very interesting.  :)