Getting To Know You: Mike Wheeler

What do you currently do?
I am the founder and Managing Director of Auto Styling Truckman. We are a UK manufacturer and distributor of pick-up truck hard tops for commercial and leisure vehicle use. We also distribute other accessories for 4×4’s and pick-ups from our manufacturing facilities in the West Midlands.

What is your inspiration in business?
My whole inspiration is to build something tangible – both in terms of the business and the products we manufacture and sell. I find being able to design and build products in the UK very exciting and it proves that there is the design and manufacturing talent in this country that can be the hub of an entrepreneurial business. In fact, I find my team very inspiring as they drive me on and help improve the business.

Who do you admire?
If I was to choose an individual I would say Sir Jonathan Ive, the British designer of the Apple iPod as so many of the company’s amazing devices. He personifies everything that is great about Apple, a company that I really admire. They make the best products, deliver the best service and are consistently at the cutting edge of everything they do.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
Asking me that question as things in business stand now, I would say definitely not. However, a few years ago when we were a small business I made the acquisition of Truckman, which I did have a ‘touch of the seconds’ about on more than one occasion.

The Truckman brand is the Hoover of our industry and the opportunity to acquire it was difficult to turn down. On the other hand, the economy was not in a good place in 2009 and things were tough. While my business was not in a recessionary environment when we bought Truckman, six months later we were.

Against this financial backdrop we agreed to honour all of Truckman’s outstanding orders, including the pre-paid ones where the cash went to the receivers and we got nothing. I had a few sleepless nights over that, but what it did was help establish a new reputation for Truckman and showed customers and people in the industry that we were rightful custodians of a famous brand.

What defines your way of doing business?
From a customer perspective, two things stand out, service and commitment. Within the business, I would say our flat management structure. Everyone involved in the business feels like they are a stakeholder in the organisation, which enables each individual to have some input and influence the way the business is run.

My view is that, as a business grows, people have to take responsibility for their departments and play their part in the company’s development. I push responsibility onto the team, which has helped us grow.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
It’s a very long road and don’t think that running your own business is a get-rich-quick scheme. You’ve got to watch every penny and be totally in control of your business’ finances. That said, I would always say, let your passion shine through.

You’ve got to become passionate about your products or services and become the expert in your field. Otherwise you won’t achieve what you want to do in the market place. That’s why I admire the guys at Apple so much. They know their market inside out and people hang off every word they say. What they do, people follow. That’s a great position to be in.


Paul Jones

Editor of Business Matters, the UKs largest business magazine, and head of Capital Business Media's automotive division working for clients such as Aston Martin and Infiniti.

Editor of Business Matters, the UKs largest business magazine, and head of Capital Business Media's automotive division working for clients such as Aston Martin and Infiniti.