Ulster Tatler Interviews our Group Operations Director
In an interview with the Ulster Tatler, Peter Johnston, Group Operations Director, tells us about his career with Wilsons Auctions, the best advice he's ever been given and what motivates him.
Now with Wilsons Auctions for over 25 years Peter, who or what influenced you to pursue your chosen career?
I started parking cars at the auction as a teenager and immediately got the bug for the auction atmosphere. I loved the buzz generated in the auction hall by the auctioneer and the excitement of the competition between the bidders. Ian Wilson was the MD and principal auctioneer and it was undoubtedly his influence that inspired me to get involved in the industry.
You initially started at Wilsons Auctions as a Sales Executive and have successfully progressed to becoming Group Operations Director. What has been the highlight of your career?
When I started with the business at the initial premises at Hydepark, Mallusk there were 12 staff. We have now grown to be the largest independently owned auction company in the British Isles with auction centres in all of the Home nations and employ over 300 people.
Being part of this continued growth has been, and continues to be the highlight of my career. We have plans to open further auction centres in England in the near future so this will continue for the foreseeable future.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Ask lots of questions! I always try to understand a situation fully before making a judgement on how it could be improved. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that is necessarily the best way to do it; always try to improve and come up with better solutions to situations or problems.
With Wilsons Auctions now entering its 80th year anniversary how have Wilsons Auctions adapted with changed times and advances in technology to stay ahead of the competition for another 80 years?
As a business we are actually very good at keeping up with technology. When people hear that we are an 80 year old auction company they immediately think of a stuffy old school organisation, in reality it is quite the opposite. We continually update our electronic systems to make the national collection of assets for auction seamless and also follow closely all of the latest technological releases to ensure we invest in the best mediums to assist buyers at our auctions nationwide.
Due to the diversity of product we offer for auction we attract bidders from all over the world who are able to bid remotely from their devices, while still taking in the buzz of the auction halls.
What was your first job?
Apart from summer jobs my first time role was with Wilsons Auctions. As I grew up with the business I know all aspects of it which enables me to still offer advice to staff on any nature of the business. It also helps that at some stage I have done their job and therefore know the difficulties they can sometimes face.
What motivates you?
Making a difference. I get a real thrill from planning ahead and eventually seeing the results fall into place in due course. It is hard sometimes for the youth of today to get motivated about their jobs, but it is vital to have goals and objectives and of course a belief in what you plan to do. I love what I do and enjoy going to work each day, it is important to maintain that drive as it motivates those around you.
What can you not live without in your brief case?
My iPad. I travel quite a bit and would be a bit lost without it. I know it’s a bit old fashioned but I also keep a diary which helps me plan ahead.
Wilsons Auctions is synonymous with car auctions how has the business expanded and diversified into other markets in recent years?
It is vitally important in business to diversify. Although we sell over 100,000 vehicles a year which is really our day to day routine, we now hold daily auctions of literally any type of item that you could imagine. Our national contracts with Government bodies, Police forces and Enforcement Agencies see us sell items like jewellery, speed-boats, holiday homes, motorbikes, super-cars, art, classic cars, planes and even gold bullion and diamonds.
We also offer national recovery, collection and storage services which also feeds into our core business as auctioneers. As we expand it gives us excellent opportunities to diversify into other areas but it is important not to lose focus of what we are at heart, auctioneers.