Corporate Case Study - Tony Nicol

Succeeding in the automotive industry is all innovation, and Tony Nicol knows it better than most.

The Canadian businessman has been involved in the manufacturing and distribution of automotive equipment for most of his working life; his career has taken him all over the world, with years spent living in various parts of Europe and North America, from Ontario to Sweden and Italy.

Yet it’s in Wales where Tony has finally settled. Since moving to Cwmbran as the managing director of Meritor Heavy Vehicle Braking Systems, he has been won over by the Welsh way of life.

There’s a sense of pride in being Welsh, underpinned by a strong work ethic – a never-say-no, nothing-can’t-be-accomplished type of attitude,” enthuses Tony. “I really feel like there’s a collective sense of mutual success here in Wales.

It’s no wonder Tony has noticed a strong sense of community in Wales, especially while working for Meritor. The company’s headquarters in Cwmbran are located in a factory that used to manufacture parts for World War II bombers. In this sense, the area has always had a rich culture of innovation.

The town has been built around the site, which originally opened in 1937 and was bought by Meritor in 1999. Several generations of the same families have continued to work in the factory, united by their shared employment and the industrial heritage of their hometown.

90% of the people who work here live within a 10-mile radius of the site,” Tony explains. “In many cases, their fathers and grandfathers also worked here – we’re anchored in this community, and so our staff turnover is virtually nothing. That gives us a huge competitive advantage.

Tony recognises the impact his company has had on the community in Cwmbran: with Meritor’s 500-strong workforce spending money in local businesses every day, the town gains a direct economic boost from its proximity with the factory.

Meritor also invests its own finances in training students from colleges and universities in South Wales, providing new career opportunities for young Welsh workers and teaching them the inherent value of innovation within business and society.

Due to Wales’ small size and devolved government structure, Tony believes that Welsh entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to innovate, enhance their local areas and do their bit for the nation’s economy. “The GDP of Wales can be greatly impacted by businesses of all sizes,” he suggests. “Even modest projects have the potential to move the needle in this country.

Business owners can take advantage of the fact that Wales is a small place – you’re only one or two phone calls away from people who are in the right position to make things happen.

If you can take that entrepreneurial spirit and apply it to your business, the sky’s the limit for what can be achieved in Wales.