Like most of us, for me the typical day doesn’t exist which is, I guess, why we are attracted to this industry, however one common component is an early start! Wherever I’m heading that day, I like to get on with it. This means dressing in the dark to avoid disturbing the family, which goes some way to explaining my dress sense.
Because of my early start I can also gauge when my colleagues are likely to be getting up. That sounds creepier than it’s meant to but I do like to have a chat with a few of the team on the way to my first stop and it’s always better to pick the ones that are up and about if you want the conversation to have some lasting impact.
The downside of business life is that you end up attending more internal meetings than you would like, whereas the real beauty of working in our trade is that it’s full of insightful retail entrepreneurs and, with all due respect to my colleagues, I would rather be visiting customers than sat in an office.
One of the challenges that seems to come round frequently is "Where do we get our next generation of retailers from?" The task of running a retail business gets no easier yet every time we think we are facing another knock-out blow, we seem to attract a new breed of business leaders who show us how to adapt for success.
We’ve just held our annual trade show and conference, and the feeling of optimism in the room was as high as I can remember it great success stories from our retailers and a seemingly never-ending list of new ideas.
We at AFB (AF Blakemore) don’t always get it right, of course, and recently we have been focusing heavily on how we can make our business more effective for our customers. This, in turn, has revealed some great ideas and challenges from the team. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some really dedicated people who seem to grow in stature and capability when presented with a big challenge.
It’s a cliché for sure, but there are few more rewarding experiences than seeing the team you work with succeed individually as well as collectively.
We’ve now got a very diversified business at AFB and I can find myself talking to artisan food producers in the morning, discussing tobacco sales trends with global suppliers in the afternoon, while getting some insight into the foodservice sector from a research firm in between.
If I’m honest, this diversity is really stimulating and keeps me on my toes it’s a bit daunting walking into a new business at my stage of career, but the learning curve is still exciting!
My favourite way of ending the day is to pick up my son from school it happens rarely that his late finish coincides with my early one but hearing all about his day makes mine seem a little less critical and ensures that re-entry into family life goes that little bit more smoothly.
One of our biggest business challenges today is finding the ideal work/life balance. We work in an industry that operates 24/7, indeed the two busiest trading days are sometimes over the traditional weekend and many of our stores are open late into the night.
At the same time we have the capability to communicate instantly and continuously across our organisation and to and from our customers’ businesses. To be honest it makes it hard to switch off and I worry that we have a team of colleagues out there who are subconsciously waiting for the next email rather than taking proper down time when it’s needed.
My approach is to put the phone on silent in the evening so that I only look at it when I want to rather than reacting to the constant ’ping’ as my inbox fills up.
The truth of the matter is that apart from major disasters there isn’t much I can do about something at 10pm that isn’t already being done no matter how indispensable I think I am!
A previous boss once told me that whatever you do on a daily basis, when the day ends you must be able to take stock and ask yourself "Did I earn my salary today?". It’s better than any time management or management effectiveness course and I would thoroughly recommend it as a way of drawing a line under one day’s challenges and preparing for the next..
Name: Jerry Marwood
Company: AF Blakemore & Son
Job title: Managing director Trade Partners
Career history: Somerfield, Tesco, Co-operative, Newshops, Spar UK
Greatest achievement: Staying employed...
Tips for business success: Listen to your customer, check in with your team then make the decision.
Other interests; Family, F1 and music.