Godiva Bearings celebrate their 40th birthday in 2017. BearingNet went along to see them and find out about the Godiva journey and what they have planned to mark the occasion…
The company started way back in 1977 as Godiva Bearings in Coventry, which is where the name comes from (the famous Lady Godiva who rode naked on horseback through the streets of Coventry).
Back then if you wanted to serve customers in different areas you needed several branches, which is why Ian Cuthill opened a shop operating from his Mum’s front room in Weybridge, Surrey.
About six months later, fresh out of school, a young nipper of 15, Paul Cuthill, came to help out his big brother Ian by working in the office and also delivering and collecting bearings on his moped. Business wasn’t going so well at that particular time, but as luck would have it Godiva were able to source a special part for a local company which resulted in their first major contract. This saw the start of the success that is Godiva Bearings today.
Tom Hamlett started his career when he joined Godiva in 1991 as the ‘summer help’ in the busy warehouse.
“The summer of 91 turned into the longest temporary job of my life – 25 years later and I’m still here!” said Tom. “I became Managing Director and a shareholder of Godiva Bearings after the companies second MBO in May 2012. Godiva Bearings now has 3 directors; Tom, Paul and also Trevor Brain, Financial Director, who works at the Shepperton Head Office. Trevor has been with Godiva for 15 years”
We asked Paul what have been the biggest changes in the industry and BearingNet popped up in the conversation!
“The use of technology has forced us to react much quicker to enquiries and also it’s made us improve our service levels. BearingNet, Google and the internet in general have turned everyone into a buyer. Technology has changed all of our lives and BearingNet has helped transform the bearing industry”
“There have been a number of big takeovers in the last 18 months which have really shaken up our industry. Things are continuously changing and we always have to be ready to adapt. The thing that has helped us to hold our position the most in is our ‘Trade Only’ policy – it really gives Godiva that unique edge.”
“We have created loyalty with our customers by not selling to their customers. We pride ourselves on the excellent relationships we have, not only with our customers but our staff, suppliers, delivery drivers – in fact everyone! The doors at Godiva are always open and everyone is always welcome.”
Paul went on to talk about the staff at Godiva and explained that they are the foundation of the company, like Richard Branson says, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.”
“As you walk into the Godiva building, in our reception area, we have our employee ‘Wall of fame’. Every employee that has been with us for 5 or more years has a certificate on the wall – and you can see from the vast amount of certificates and the years of experience that proves we have a very low turnover of staff and offer a great work environment!”
Tom and Paul are very proud of this and talk very fondly of their employees. We got a real sense of ‘team work’ walking through the offices and saying hello to everyone. They are convinced their low level of sick days from the staff is due to the happy environment they have created at Godiva.
When asked what have been the major milestones so far for Godiva Bearings…
Tom explained “The two most exciting events for us would have to be firstly in 1982 when Godiva were appointed IKO agents and secondly in 2003 when Godiva became official FAG agents. It was then that we also made the decision to become ‘Trade Only’. This was a unique feature within the trade and still is today. We now have our training room themed like IKO and our main meeting room themed as Schaeffler. Both manufacturers are very proud of our long standing affiliation.”
Tom added: “Godiva has expanded progressively over the years. The Shepperton branch opened back in 1981 with the Newcastle branch opening in 1996. We then went on to open the main branch in Dudley in 1998 which has now expanded over two units giving us much more warehouse space. All of this helps to deliver the 80,000 plus orders we receive each year!”
Another game changer for Godiva was becoming members of BearingNet back in January 1997. BearingNet’s founder John Bass approached Paul Cuthill to tell him about his new company BearingNet. Godiva Bearings decided to get on board and that was the start of a long standing relationship between the two companies. Godiva attend all of the BearingNet User Meetings and now have an even bigger presence at the meetings with a Premium Location.
Something else that helps Godiva stand out in the industry is their unique branding, so we asked about GodivaMan and GodivaWoman and where did they come from?
“GodivaMan was born in 2005, GodivaWoman joining him a couple of years later. We had the idea of a Super Hero to help us out with our Trade Only policy. It was at the BearingNet User Meeting in Amsterdam 2012, where GodivaMan & GodivaWoman made their first public appearance. Since then they have been travelling all around the world with us, even sitting in the cockpit of a British Airways jet!” said Paul.
What are Godiva doing to celebrate turning 40?
On the 6th of January 2017, Godiva are holding a big party throughout the day at the Dudley branch. They are inviting customers, suppliers and friends to come along and help them mark the occasion.
Tom explained “We are really looking forward to having everyone with us on the 6th of January. Our doors will be open all day and we will even be giving out goodie bags to every one of our visitors. Everybody is welcome.”
What do you see for the next 40 years?
“We have a very busy 2017 – Our big day in January, followed by exhibiting at the BearingNet RoadShow on the 3rd March, Hannover Messe in April, the Madrid BearingNet User Meeting in June, the Washington DC BearingNet User Meeting in September and finally the EPTDA Annual convention in Rome in September! It is going to be another hectic year but we can’t wait.” said Tom.
Tom explains “We will always continue to be “Trade Only” and to keep Godiva a great place to work for our extremely hard working employees. Of course we will ensure that we carry on expanding the business by looking for more local apprentices to start their career with us. We are big believers in starting employees from scratch and “Godivarising” them. We like the Godiva culture so much it’s hard not to get excited about coming into work. In fact it is so enjoyable that I might still be here in another 40 years time!”
Finally we asked Godiva have there been any bad bits or anything they would do differently?
“Just like every company, we have our bad days, but we always deal with them head on; our good days massively outweigh the bad and Godiva is the reason we get out of bed in the morning. We love everything about it – the customer, the suppliers, the products but most of all the staff who are every bit as committed as ourselves – and long may it continue!” beams Tom with pride.
Paul Cuthill & Tom Hamlett