“You’re as young as you feel” is a pretty old expression. And, funnily enough, it’s used, more often than not, by people who are worried they might be starting to get past it. Directors and chairmen sit and progress into their fifties and sixties, grimly gripping onto the “you’re as young as you feel” philosophy with white knuckles, dreaming of the days they were 27 and still working their way through the ranks.
Unless, of course, they are Tim Betts, who actually is 27 and has already risen through the ranks to become North West sales and marketing director for Wimpey Homes.
The youngest director ever appointed by the company, Betts has achieved his journey up the ladder in the space of just six years – putting his foot on the first rung in 1996 when he was taken on as a graduate trainee. As of the beginning of this year, Betts now has control of sales and marketing in Greater Manchester, with ambitions to permanently leave his mark on the region before moving on. It doesn’t take very long to realise that “ambition” and “Betts” go hand in hand.
Always interested in business, Betts attended Hull University and walked out with a degree in business studies. It seems to have been a good choice.
“Right from day one I specialised in business studies,” he says. “Even before university. A lot of people you speak to say they never use their degrees in their day-to-day jobs. I’m completely different. Because my degree was so wide-ranging, covering business, finance and marketing, I’m always remembering things we did.”
Upon joining Wimpey as a graduate trainee the young(er) Betts spent time working across each of the company’s separate departments (land, commercial, finance and sales), building his experience and knowledge of how Wimpey works. But it was the sales department that really caught his eye. He explains: “After working through all the departments, which was a wonderful insight into the business, the reason I selected sales was that the sales department is involved in every stage, from buying land through to moving the client in and beyond. We decide how much to pay for the land or whether we buy or sell land. It’s all decided by the sales department. Then we obviously sell the products and market them. What we do encompasses every stage of the process and that just excited me.”
During the last six years Wimpey as a company has evolved and, as is usually the case with companies of a certain size, a large part of this has been through acquisition. As sales manager, Betts was responsible for the integration of two different sales and marketing teams into his own: the teams from McAlpine Homes and Rivermead Homes. In the six years since he joined the company the Rivermead integration is the achievement he’s been the most proud of.
“With Rivermead we didn’t change things right away. We wanted to see how they did things, find out if we were doing anything wrong. So for the first few weeks we just observed. A lot of it was just communication. A lot of the guys had seen their friends made redundant and they were worried it was going to happen to them. We had to make sure they knew it wasn’t. We haven’t lost a single Rivermead staff member since the integration.”
And it’s not just the staff Betts has retained during his time at Wimpey. On the marketing side the company has had relationships with Weber-Shandwick and McCann-Erickson Manchester for four years. With Betts now holding the reins as sales and marketing director, it doesn’t seem set to change either. “We’ve had a contract with them for about four years,” he says. “I think what they offer is a superb service, I really do. From a creative point of view, I might want something updated when new offers come out. They will literally drop everything and sort it out for me.”
As for a testimonial to Weber Shandwick’s ability to do their job... well, you’re reading it.
Betts states that Wimpey’s strongest selling point is its treatment of customers: “I think without a doubt we differentiate ourselves through our customer care. There are so many property companies out there it’s hard for the consumer to choose. What we find is that we have customers either recommending us or coming back to buy their second or third home off of us, which, from a marketing point of view, is just fantastic.”
North West sales and marketing director is an impressive title, but some may suggest that at 27 years of age Betts might have some growing to do yet. Naming Richard Branson as his main role model, Betts declares his main ambition for the moment is to control every aspect of one of the Wimpey regions, an opportunity to stamp the words BETTS DID THIS onto an area of the country. He explains: “The ambition I’ve got is that I’ve always wanted to run a region. It’s been my ambition since I first walked into Wimpey. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to create something that will stand the test of time, that I can look back on years from now and say ‘I created that.’”
Ambition and determination seem to have driven Betts this far, and he doesn’t seem set to slip into complacency any time soon. At 27, he no doubt has both the property and marketing worlds at his feet, but nonetheless seems relaxed about being named director at such an early age.
He says: “I’ve never thought age was a problem. If you’re good enough you’re old enough.” Perhaps Betts subscribes to the flipside of the traditional expression. In Betts’ case, he is as old as he feels.