Meet our Chairman David Williams OBE
Q Tell us about your background?
A I was born in Nantyffyllon, a mining village in South Wales. My father was a grocer and my mother a nurse. My father taught me the difference between ‘turnover’ and ‘profit margin’ in a business, while my mother gave me the driving ambition to succeed.
Q Why did you decide on a career with within healthcare?
A I was inspired by my mother. She trained in London, which at the time, was seen as the big time for a ‘valley’ girl of her generation. Healthcare was always put to me as an environment where one could rise to the top by working hard.
Q How did your journey begin with LWC Wales?
A In 1988, I landed my dream job when I was appointed Chief Executive of Swansea NHS Trust. I was initially based at Singleton Hospital, in Swansea, and then became responsible for all of the hospitals and clinics in the city. We had a new wing built at Singleton with four maternity wards, but between the build’s conception and completion, the whole way that maternity services were delivered changed. Instead of women staying in seven days post birth they were staying in for seven hours. Suddenly we didn’t need the space. Then, Kamal Ahuja came along and was interested in opening a clinic, and we got on famously. When my wife became terminally ill and I couldn’t carry on as chief executive, Kamal found me a consultancy role within one of his organisations, he obviously liked my advice, and from there we then became business partners.
Q What particular challenges have you faced over your career?
A I have faced lots of professional challenges over the years. I suppose I became the expert at turning financially failing organisations into smooth running financially sound institutions. It’s very easy really you just spend less, although sometimes explaining that to a group of frustrated doctors can be challenging. However, nothing I faced professionally was as challenging as when my wife, at just 54, was diagnosed with Alzheimers and I took on the role as sole carer. Nothing prepares you for that and I learnt a lot about myself and those around me during that time.
Q What has inspired you in your roles?
A I was lucky enough to have one outstanding role model in my life. He was a superb manager and taught me so much. However, he lacked empathy with his staff and I have always tried to copy his many talents while at the same time trying to get to know and work with those around me.
Q Describe some of your most rewarding experiences during your career?
A There are four that particularly stand out. I won the Golden Helix for the best European Healthcare Quality project. In 1975 I made an annual profit of £10m in the first year of a Saudi Arabia project I headed, back then this was 95% of the Company’s total profit. I’ve also turned around the finances of Morriston Hospital in Swansea. And, more recently, I’m really proud of the work I’ve accomplished at the LWC.
Q What is your role at LWC Wales?
A I have quite a few hats! I’m Chairman of JD Healthcare Ltd and all of its subsidiaries, with the primary role of being a sounding board for Kamal Ahuja, Managing and Scientific Director, and his ideas. My second role is that I challenge his ideas, and thirdly I need to make sure they add up financially, otherwise we don’t proceed. We have a mutual respect for one another and we work together to be successful.
Q How important is a strong team in business?
A It’s absolutely everything, if you haven’t got a good solid team you haven’t got a good business. You can open the flashiest clinic in the world with the latest equipment, but if you haven’t got the staff, you haven’t got a business. I’d like to pay a special tribute to Anne Fisher, we’ve worked together for 30 years. She is an outstanding member of staff whose been with us since the outset of the Welsh clinic and she leads the team superbly.
Q What does the future hold for LWC Wales?
A We’re very established and clinically extremely sound. We have clinics in Swansea, Cardiff and have recently opened a new clinic in Bristol. We’ve got one competitor, their clinical results are not as good as ours, but nevertheless we’ve got to stay on top of the game.
Q What advice would you give to anyone interested in a business or medical career in healthcare?
A Both of my daughters work in healthcare. I would advise the sector to anyone. There is huge job satisfaction, always employment and the skills can take you around the world. Go for it!