I’m normally on the road by 6am, with a mug of tea by my side for the journey ahead - apart from Mondays when I tend to work from home, tidying up paperwork and resolving outstanding queries. I am away at least two nights a week. I know the work-life balance is not ideal, or the 50,000 miles a year I clock up, but I still have the same drive and enthusiasm now that I had when I joined Gulf Oil (GB) Ltd in the ’80s, just a lot more Best Western loyalty points!
By 7.30am I am speaking to our field guys to understand what is going on, often arranging to meet both new and existing customers. By the time I have reached Gulf HQ in Wetherby, aided by my trusty Blackberry, I’m ready to take on the world.
Home is on the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border, head office is in Yorkshire and my responsibility is for the whole of the UK. It makes for a pretty eventful existence.
The nature of the business demands that a proportion of time is spent at our head office to discuss all aspects of the business, shaping future direction and evaluating performance. I am not a fan of unnecessary beaurocracy, and am far happier out and about spending time with customers. I aim to visit all prospects that are close to joining the Gulf brand, as well as visit 15 to 20 dealers a month.
There is no point telling people that Gulf understands dealers if we then hide away behind a desk.
At our last sales meeting we calculated that the Gulf sales force has over 100 years of fuel retailing experience between us.
Gulf benefits on a daily basis from its investment in experience. Often a dealer will say that the difference that made them sign was the Gulf area manager. I expect that from our guys - they are knowledgeable and honest and I regard them all as friends.
I think one of the reasons we have stayed in this business for so many years is that we all recognise that it is a business where you, as an individual, can still make a difference.
The Gulf brand is dear to me and I love working for it. I developed my appreciation during the late ’80s. They were exciting times. We rebranded the forecourt image to the look you see today, returned to motorsport at Le Mans after a 19-year absence, and started to build a highly-profitable organisation with a strong market share. In some areas, the central belt of Scotland for example, we built a 20% market share. Lots of talented people with vision and drive. We worked hard and played hard.
Today, the challenges for the industry and its independents are no less demanding and helping our customers find new profit centres remains a primary objective. The competition for new business is even more intense now than it was then. The majors may turn their backs on the dealer market from time to time but in difficult times when they are looking for a route to growth, it’s their first port of call. I smile at the cyclical activity I see in particular from my major competitors.
Recently, Gulf Retail launched a range of specialist motor racing lubricants. They have been very well received which has given me a great deal of satisfaction. Motorsport is never far away from our business activities and long may it continue.
Our next motorsport-related initiative is at the Goodwood Revival where Gulf is sponsoring a garage, workshop and showroom. It is the most astonishing event you can imagine with everyone wearing period costume (1940s to 1966) with the whole look and feel of the event from a bygone era. Our garage will be authentic early ’60s right down to the magazines and lubricant cans. Some people say this is my era, but then again, some people like some old-fashioned values.
Despite all the travelling I do, I love to be back home sitting in the garden, which is my pride and joy and occupies much of my free time. I also love sailing and have a share in a 48ft Dufour which I will be sailing from the UK to Gibraltar in October.
For my 50th birthday - as if I wasn’t hen-pecked enough - my children bought me five hens, one for each decade. I’ve become very attached to them - except when they start eating the plants.
They have become great pets, they let me know when they have laid an egg and come to me when I call them. Next stop, Britain’s Got Talent!
=== Keith Jewers: ===
Name: Keith Jewers
Job title: Director, Gulf Retail
Responsibility: Gulf’s retail network, which currently comprises 190 Gulf-branded forecourts and GLUK - Gulf’s standalone specialist lubricants business
Company: Gulf Retail, Wetherby, Yorkshire
Career history/biog: Started in 1982 with integrated dealership based in Scottish borders; worked for Gulf Oil (GB) Ltd from 1986-97; then Total and Cooke’s before joining Gulf Retail in 2005
Greatest achievement: Bringing our four children through schooling and watching them flourish
Most likely to say: "I’m appalled," when listening to prospects discuss the treatment they receive from their supplying company
Least likely to say: "That’s impossible"
Tip for business success: Be true to yourself, hard work and honesty