When we heard that VADO were about to celebrate their 30th Anniversary we got in touch with VADO Managing Director Jim Williams to learn more about their company.
Jim joined VADO in 1999, leaving behind a career in Management Consulting to join the small family business. He has worked in all areas of the company as it has developed and grown to become a significant player in the bathroom industry. He was appointed as Managing Director in 2011.
1. Can you tell us about the background of VADO?
The business was founded as “Eurobath” in 1988, primarily as a distributor of European bathroom products focused mainly on the UK bathroom retail sector. My father-in-law, Richard Walker, bought the majority shareholding in 1992 and then myself and my wife joined the business in 1999. We set about refocusing the business away from being a general bathroom products distribution operation to becoming a specialist designer and manufacturer of brassware, aimed at the mid to high end of the market. Over the last 20 years, we have built on our successes in the UK retail market and developed as one of the leading brassware brands in the project sector here in the UK and in more than 60 countries around the world.
2. What does VADO look like now compared to when you launched in 1988?
The business is probably unrecognisable to the one that existed in 1988! Back then it was a small office and warehousing facility in Bristol, employing 4 people. Now we have more than 200 staff based across 3 different continents. In 1988, the focus of the business was all about sourcing products under other people’s brands. Now, design and product development is at the core of what we do.
3. What have been your key milestones, projects, products or people over the last 30 years?
The project sector can so often be a case of chicken and egg. It’s difficult to get specified without a decent reference list but you can’t build that reference list without being specified! The first 2 major hotel jobs we won were both overseas; The Hyatt Regency in Dubai and The Four Seasons in Hong Kong. Since then we have built a client list that we are very proud of, one that features major developers and hotel groups across the globe.
In 2013, we sold the business to Norcros PLC. Being part of a well-financed listed company has given us further scope for expansion both at home and overseas.
4. Over the past 30 years you must have seen a wide range of trends come and go, which trends were particularly memorable?
There is no doubt that the current trend is for brassware in different finishes; gone are the days where everything is in chrome. I do remember in my early years with the business,“mixage” was still in-vogue. We still have samples of chrome/bright gold and chrome/matt chrome mix taps in our archive. From a more technical perspective, water saving is an issue that we have embraced for many years now. Our H2Eco range of products features taps and showers that deliver optimal performance with significant water saving.
5. How have your production methods changed over the last 30 years?
In the main, production methodology has stayed pretty much the same over the last 30 years. People are still often surprised at the amount of labour that goes into producing a tap, particularly in the polishing process where every piece is still polished by hand to achieve the perfect finish.
6. After being in business for 30 years what are your goals for the next 30 years?
Our business has doubled in size in the last 5 years and we continue to have ambitious growth plans. Underpinning our growth is positioning ourselves at the forefront of product development. Our focus remains on launching products that are not only design led but practical from an installation and usage perspective. Our latest move into digital showering is exciting as there are numerous possibilities where smart technology can enhance the bathroom environment; watch this space!