The day starts at around 6.30am with either the dog, the children or the alarm waking us up. We all try to eat breakfast together then head off in our separate directions.
I get to the office at about 8.30am. It’s the usual rigmarole of emails and dealing with the growing ’to do’ list. We have regular communications from suppliers suggesting new products and new ideas. I spend a few hours weeding the wheat from the chaff. We have a good relationship with our suppliers so I’m prepared to give anything a read through to see if it could be applied to the business and help us make more money.
In the afternoon I get out to visit one of our 12 sites. I usually spend three or four hours at the site, speaking to the staff, finding out if there are any issues, and making sure they are implementing all the promotions and products we have told them to do.
Ensuring we have well-trained and happy staff is very important to me. We train people ourselves but also work with BP, using their online training modules. We have 110 staff so it’s a big job making sure they are all performing and working from the same page. We actually run our own individual awards in store to find the best staff member each month. We find this really motivates them and keeps our standards high.
In the afternoon I go to check out the competition. I want to see what they are selling and how much they are selling it for. Understanding what your competitors are up to is almost as important as knowing your own business.
In the North, the major multiples aggressively discount oil which makes it hard for us to compete.
If we just sold oil we just wouldn’t be here. I see forecourts around us going under and it’s because they don’t have the shop offer to draw people in and bump up their margins.
We do everything we can to give our customers a reason to come to us. We have a bakery, fresh coffee, a car wash and a strong general convenience offer. We also offer a 5p off petrol voucher when customers use our jet or car wash. This helps to encourage sales in other areas other than petrol as customers feel they are getting better value for money.
Our sites are all with BP, which is seen as a premium brand and, with oil at record prices, we knew we needed to look at what we were doing in the shop we decided to re-brand with Mace. People know Mace as being great value.
It’s this everyday value we need to encourage people to spend their cash in the shop when they fill up. For example, we frequently run alcohol deals offering large multi-packs for £9.99 and two bottles of wine for £9. This has increased our sales of alcohol to £2,000 a week.
It’s important to get the pricing right. We want to keep our margins as high as possible but without turning the customer off. This is why it’s important to make sure your pricing and offer are in line with those around you.
I also keep a keen eye on our tobacco category. It’s another money maker for forecourts but a difficult one to compete on if the mults use it as a loss-leader.
The display ban wasn’t quite the bonanza for independents everyone was expecting. Tobacco customers are very price and brand driven. They know what they want and where to get it cheapest not much is going to stop them doing that.
Working in the forecourt industry is challenging. It’s an industry which has changed so much in the past 20 years. It’s almost unrecognisable.
I’m not sure what the future holds but as long as we keep on working with the industry, keeping an eye on our competition and being flexible to move with the times, I’m confident we’ll still be here for some time to come.
Company: Manor Service Stations Limited
Job title: Sales director
Career history: I worked for Total when I left university in 1995, it was TCS then. I got to see the industry from the other side got to see what worked, and what didn’t! In 1999 I started working for Manor Service Stations, which is the family business
Greatest achievement: Undoubtedly my three children Harry 9, Scarlett 8 and Teddy 4
Tips for business success: Never close your mind off to anything. Always listen to suggestions you never know what is going to work
Most likely to say: Let’s go and play golf then watch the football in the pub
Least likely to say: I really hope Manchester City win the league again next year.