In the most recent edition of Business Eye, Rebecca Wilson talks to editor, Richard Buckley about her key role in the fast-growing company as well as being the only female auctioneer in the family-business.
Northern Ireland has more than its fair share of family businesses, and they don't come much more family-orientated than Wilsons Auctions, nowadays one of the biggest auction operators in the British Isles.
Founded by William Wilson in 1936 as an auction house for agricultural machinery, the firm developed and grew rapidly under the leadership of his son Ian Wilson and continues to see growth with the acquisition last year of Newport Auctions.
The Wilson name continues to the third generation with Ian Wilson's two sons, Ricky & Gareth, and daughter Rebecca all in leadership roles across the business.
Rebecca Wilson is the company's Head of Corporate Services and also keeps busy as its only female auctioneer, regularly taking up the gavel on rostrums across the group.
She's been involved in the business since coming in for work experience in her school days, but joined full-time back in 2007 after graduating with a Masters from university in Scotland and spending some time travelling.
"My first role was to set up a corporate services department at our Dublin branch, we had a successful corporate services department in our Northern Ireland operations but it was the right time to move this into the Republic of Ireland," Rebecca says.
The new department soon found itself being extremely busy working on behalf of insolvency practitioners, financial institutions, solicitor and others, handling everything from vehicles, plant machinery and office equipment to a wide range of other items being put under the hammer.
Rebecca then took on an all-Ireland role in Corporate Services and not long after became the Head of Corporate Services across the group, dealing with insolvency and finance cases and government contracts across the business. The Wilsons Auctions group covers Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and has recently expanded into Europe.
"We look after the re-marketing of an extremely wide variety of assets," says Rebecca Wilson. "We continually strive to provide a second to none service for our clients when providing everything from valuations and collections to secure storage through to the re-marketing of those goods."
"I base myself in our Dublin branch but I regularly travel all over the British Isles these days. It's my job to co-ordinate the team who look after corporate services at our different bases."
Since she joined the company back in 2007, Wilsons Auctions has effectively more than doubled in size and scale, opening new centres and acquiring existing auction businesses in Great Britain.
"So we now have a workforce of around 400 people, but there is still a really strong family business feel to the company. Even members of staff who've joined us through acquisition seem to find it easy to buy into the Wilsons Auctions ethos and way of doing things.
"We conduct around 50 live auctions and timed online auctions each week at our different centres and, behind the actual auctions, there is a lot of other work happening including valuations, logistics, preparatory and of course the off-site auctions we conduct across the UK and Ireland."
Rebecca Wilson might be the only female auctioneer in the group as things stand, but she reckons that will change in the not too distant future.
"In the past auctions have been considered quite a male-dominated industry, but Wilsons Auctions is very much changing that trend. We have a very strong female team within the business and I'm determined to start getting them on the rostrum."
Wilsons Auctions has won a series of government contracts to provide re-marketing for a wide spectrum of assets, including on behalf of the Home Office, HMRC and a number of UK police forces.
"The diversity of the goods that we sell by auction is important to us; it means that we can provide a complete re-marketing facility to all of our clients and any asset you can think of we have more than likely sold. We have sold everything from Olympic medal winning horses, aircraft, and yachts, gold bullion to properties across Europe, supercars and high-end jewellery."
Rebecca concluded, "As the company grows, myself along with our strong management team and highly experienced staff, are very excited about taking Wilsons Auctions to the next level of expansion."