What a difference a week makes! The Sunday before I wrote this, I was savouring the atmosphere in the Olympic Park after having had the privilege of witnessing Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farrah win three gold medals in the athletics. We were all punch drunk after watching one of the greatest sporting nights ever, and nobody wanted to go home.
The following Saturday night saw me out until 4.30am at one of the 24-hour petrol stations I look after, tying to re-open the site following a freak accident. Having been up since early the previous morning, all I wanted to do was to go home!
They say that variety is the spice of life, and one of the attractions for me of fuel retailing has always been the different roles I fulfil in that work. From the boardroom to the shop floor, I try to be involved in as much of the business as possible. I choose to work ’on site’ rather than from a remote office, believing that the best way to see how things are working is to immerse myself in the day-to-day running of a business.
It’s interesting to reflect on the ever increasing use of email. In principle, it’s fantastic, and I wonder how we ever used to manage without it. But where will it all end, I wonder? Colleagues speak of coming back from leave and having over 1,000 unread emails to deal with. I’m not that popular yet, but on some days my time mostly seems to be taken up with good old Microsoft Outlook. After all, I don’t want to miss anything important, or appear rude or ill-informed! And, while we’re on the subject, just how irritating are those little ’high importance’ exclamation marks some people like to send?
Returning to the Olympics theme, they didn’t get off to the best of starts with me. I probably should have known better, but I tried to save some money by using non-official branded Olympic bunting to decorate the sites. It all looked very tasteful indeed until it started to rain, whereupon all the dye from the flags ran onto the white painted boards behind. No amount of Ajax or Vim would get the colour out, so I ended up having to get the lot repainted.
After that, I never quite ’got’ the Olympic torch relay thing although, I must admit, a lot of people seemed to have a very jolly time cheering it along. Plus, we did sell some BP Olympic medals to some excitable supporters when it passed through Exeter.
When it comes to the Games themselves, however, there can be no denying the impact they had on the country. The planning and execution were exemplary. The riots and disaffected youth of 12 months ago would surely be unthinkable today, given the new-found sense of pride that has flooded out across the nation in the past few weeks.
While the main driver for this has been the sport, there have also been lots of exciting projects across the country. In Bristol, for example, the ’See No Evil’ project has caused a real buzz with international street artists creating new, outside art works in a designated area of the city centre.
I believe we are now uniquely placed to enjoy a magnificent legacy from London 2012.
It seems to me that good ideas are one part inspiration and two parts imitation, so I always try to keep an eye out for ideas that I can bring back and use in the business.
London’s Borough Market has always inspired me as a model of retailing, with its atmosphere, diversity and commercial success.
At the Olympics themselves, I found the attitude and behaviour of the volunteer staff inspirational surely a model for all of us to work harder at improving the customer service we offer?
One final memory is also of the beautiful flower meadows approaching the Olympic Park.
Twenty years ago our businesses regularly won awards in the local Britain in Bloom competitions, but more recently this area has suffered through expense cut-backs.
Is it time for an Olympian re-appraisal, perhaps?