Dynamic’s Motoring Editor, FIONA SHAFER, MD of MDHUB interviews long-term MDHUB member Barney Dines, CEO of Heritage Parts Centre in Shoreham-by-Sea Fiona Shafer interviews Barney Dines, CEO of Heritage Parts Centre.
Who knew that one of the biggest spare parts specialists for classic VW and Porsche cars in the world
is based in pretty cool and sunny Shoreham-by-Sea? Established in 1986 as VW Heritage by David Ward, the business has rebranded in recent years as Heritage Parts Centre. This exciting business
is now led by CEO Barney Dines alongside co-directors Paul Howard and Mark Rikard, and currently
employs 80 people in the UK and Germany.
It sells and manufactures spare parts and accessories globally for classic VW and Porsche – both
wholesale and retail – and has highly ambitious plans to grow the business from a turnover of £12 million currently to £40 million in the next five years.
A lifelong car enthusiast, Barney joined the company 22 years ago, working his way up to Sales Director until he took over as CEO in 2017.
Was it your intention when you set out on your career path Barney to run a company or be a business leader?
No. Originally, I was driven to be a lawyer – motivated by watching TV programmes like Legal Eagles in the 1980s. But that plan didn’t work out. I got into cars at 15 when my grandmother gave me some money to buy a car. I didn’t want to buy a normal car like a Fiesta, so instead bought a VW Beetle after watching a TV show about a car show called Bugjam.
I fixed it up with fellow car enthusiast Paul (co-director Paul Howard, whom Barney met when he was 11 at junior school). We were so busy doing up cars that neither of us did very well in our A-Levels, and did not get the grades to go to University. Instead, we both got a job in the local VW place called Big Boys Toys (BBT) in Thurrock, Essex where we were both very regular customers.
We basically took over running the place and eventually the owner wanted to sell, and split Paul and me
up to run two sides of business with a view to us buying it. It didn’t work out at the time, so we exited and bought a share of Heritage from David instead and we went onto acquire BBT a few years down the line.
Paul has always worked on purchasing, with me on sales. I often refer to us as a pantomime horse; I am the front end with the sales and marketing, and he is the back end with purchasing and product.
And he won’t mind me saying that!
You and your leadership team have very ambitious growth plans. What challenges do you need to overcome to achieve this growth?
It can be very lonely at the top at times when I used to feel like I was running the business on my own with my co-directors. That is why I decided to build both a senior leadership team and a broader leadership team around me to help achieve our ambitions.
We are all working to our own version of EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System ) and Rockefeller Habits, which is proving very effective.
Our key challenges that we need to overcome as a team to achieve this growth are :
- Speeding up the development on our website
- Competition is stiff – and purse and wallets strings are stretched with the cost of living crisis
- We only supply classic cars which are people’s passion and not used on a daily basis.
- Net Zero 2030 is a potential risk for us too.
In three words, how would you describe yourself as a leader?
Driven, fair and ambitious.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I work very hard to be a facilitator and coach rather than telling people what to do. Having worked my way up through all levels of the business, this is not easy. I find it quite hard not to revert to diving in and
resolving problems. I try really hard not to but it doesn’t always happen! I have always done quite well,
quite easily but I have learned from the assistance of a coach to adapt my ‘intuitive’ leadership style to adapting my leadership style to match the different situations that arise on a day-to-day basis.
If you could improve one thing about yourself as a leader, what would it be?
Stop myself from reverting to giving advice, and to be more disciplined on really focusing on things, and not leaving them to the last minute. I can be easily distracted to the next new shiny thing…
Given your appetite for learning, what is your best business book?
I have always enjoyed learning and aim to listen to at least two business books a month when I drive from my home in London down to the factory in Shoreham. I listened to ‘Senzu Art of War’ by Sun Tzu whilst in the gym yesterday as it is only an hour long, and am currently halfway through ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins. My favourite book is definitely ‘Scaling Up’ by Verne Harnish, although ‘Good to Great’ is coming
in a very close second.
What well-known entrepreneur would you like to have dinner with (or invite on a site visit of Heritage parts), and why?
It’s got to be Elon Musk. I think it is incredible what he has done with Tesla and what he is doing with
If you were to lead a ‘dream company’, what would it be?
What would irritate me most about you if I sat next to you on a long-haul flight?
Very loud snoring and random twitching – so I am told. In order to maximise the value of travelling
Business Class, I would probably drink too much red wine and end up talking the hind leg off a donkey.
What would be your superpower?
It has to be a teleportation device. But then again, if I did have one, I would not have time to listen to
my audio books, and I would probably end up doing lots of silly little tasks again!
How do you relax?
I like to spend time with my daughter, eat and drink, watch Sci Fi, go to the gym, run, swim
Knowing what you do now about running a business, what are the top three pieces of advice you would give to someone who is either setting up a business or thinking of taking over a business?
- Make sure you are passionate about the business and what it does.
- It pays you what you need to earn
- Listen to people – you don’t need to know all of the answers, which is probably the best thing I have