With only a grammar school education, David Williams went from management trainee to divisional managing director of a major distribution company. But after 26 years there, Williams craved change. In 1994, he called former colleague, Colin McDavid, and the two launched Great Bear Distribution, a foodstuff storage and distribution business in Chester. Using personal savings totalling £65,000 they raised an additional £200,000 in venture capital from 3i for 30% of the company. The company almost ran through the entire investment before its first sale forced it to adopt a strict financial discipline. Williams and managers review weekly costing sheets to audit customer relationships in which profits are slipping. He says he is able to discuss this candidly with major clients, since they are also privy to his numbers. By fiscal year end 1997, Great Bear boasted 146 employees, impressive customers, such as J. Sainsbury, and turnover of £10.5m.
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