Partnership with a passion for motorbikes

Dave Willis is relishing his career change, combining business with pleasure.

He took over Orwell Motorcycles with Rob Walters in November 2017 from Rob’s older brother, Ray.

It’s a partnership built on friendship – they have known each other since they were children – and a shared passion for motorbikes.

“I moved here from Surrey, aged six or seven, and Rob was one of my first mates,” said Dave.

Dave is a long-standing Orwell customer, buying his first bike from Ray, when he was 16.

Since then he’s had about 20 bikes, including a string of Suzuki GSX-R 750s which took him to France several times.

He still owns several bikes including a Yamaha XT 660-based Tucano, two Honda CB1100s in the process of being customised, a Honda CRF100, three Yamaha GT80s and an original 1935 OK Supreme.

As you can see, he has a liking for old trail bikes and still wishes he had his Suzuki DR-Z 400.

Dave left school at 16 and did a four-year apprenticeship in electronic engineering with BT.

He later moved to Reuters in London, providing dealing systems for banks. Eight years later he joined Deutsche Bank doing market data systems and engineering solutions. Before taking over Orwell, he was working for an IT company which hosted dealing systems for smaller banks.

Dave had been thinking of a career change to something involving motorbikes, possibly a custom bike outlet, when Rob approached him about Ray planning to retire and sell Orwell.

“I’ve always had bikes and a passion for bikes.

“I was thinking what would I like to do for a job and I thought about having a bike shop. I justified it within an hour.”

It’s a partnership that works very well with Dave taking an overview of the business performance and finances while Rob is more hands-on in the workshop and showroom.

“We’ve known each other for a long time so know how not to wind each other up. I know they say never go into business with your friends but it works well for us,” said Dave.

“It’s nice to look forward to going to work. It’s good to see a different side of life after being in a bubble in London for 20 years.

“Everyone thinks you are out on bikes all day but really you are doing cashflow forecasts and worrying about the business. They all promised me, when I took over, that it runs itself but they soon found me some work to do!”

Dave, married with three children, spent a lot of time finding out what each department does, to understand what the job involves, and admits he’s still learning.

“I soon realised how much knowledge our staff have about their products. It’s not a case of just taking something off the shelf. It’s about knowing the products really well so we can help customers make informed choices.

“We’re all part of a big team made up of people who are very good at what they do. And they all love motorbikes.”

He’s clearly enjoying his new life… and not missing his daily four hours of commuting to and from London.

“My wife said taking over Orwell Motorcycles was the biggest mid-life crisis I could have. Some people buy a motorbike – I bought a dealership!”