My day usually starts at 6am. I get up, have a quick bowl of porridge and then head off to the gym or for an early morning bike ride. But I aim to be in the car for 7.15am. I always try to make the most of my time in the car. I try not to ring any suppliers before 8am, so instead I ring the branches to review the previous day’s trade and fuel volume performance. If it’s a Monday we also review the margin and sales performance. Using Torex in all the stores means we have a consistent way of reviewing profit and sales. It’s always interesting ringing sites from my car because, unfortunately, a Welsh accent and German engineering don’t always match!
Before I arrive at the store I’ll have had the accounts team on the phone. I’ve been given an excellent cost-saving tip by a fellow retailer on cash handling, and my accounts team is just finalising details on the deal. Focus on cost has been key this year and working with other retailers in sharing best practice has made a solid impact on our bottom line.
The cost issue is a minefield out there, with many businesses trying to blind the independent retailer with complexity to secure weighty commissions. My number one tip is for independent retailers to pick up the phone to each other and share ideas. We have to stay united, it is the only way we will stop the seemingly relentless onslaught from the likes of Tesco.
At 7.45am it’s time to make sure the kids are out of bed, so I give them a quick call to say good morning. I am so proud of my children especially how they support each other. They are quite simply the reason why I am so driven.
I arrive at our Bruton site in Somerset, where the team is busy getting the store ready as we are having a management academy training day there. This is the first year we have launched the academy and we’ve had great support from our suppliers. Our chief executive officer, Jeremy Symonds, joins us for lunch with one of our suppliers. The team has been set a challenge on how to improve sales and we are discussing this over lunch. Being a family business, integrity and relationships with our staff and partners are fundamental.
We are developing our team to allow us to promote future managers, where possible, from within the business and develop long-term partnerships with our key suppliers. After the course, I have been given a lead for a site that the owner is looking to sell, so I do a detour to have a look.
It is a real privilege working alongside Jeremy. I really value the time we have together discussing weekly operational priorities and long-term strategies. With his success in building up the Smile Convenience chain and the Symonds distribution business which was successfully sold before the economic downturn there’s much I can learn from him.
My past career has given me a real solid base for my managing director role. I started with M&S where the management training was excellent and gave me a real commercial focus.
I then spent time as retail director with Lego and, after leaving there, I joined RoadChef again as retail director. It was here I first met the Symonds family.
I then decided to set up my own consultancy and import business, which was good fun but I missed the cut and thrust of working with a bigger team.
At this point I joined Jeremy to run his 90 Smile stores. We had a great team and a real dynamic business. When it was sold to McColls I joined them and ran 500 convenience stores across the UK. I learnt much there.
A new opportunity then presented itself within Musgrave as regional director for Budgens. During my time there, I met Jeremy again. The timing and opportunity was right to join him again and lead the growth of his business.
Finally, I get home for 7.30pm. It’s reading and chilling time with the kids, before they go to bed. Supposedly then it’s time to relax with my wife, but I usually find time to sneak a few emails in!
Company: Symonds Retail
Job title: Managing director
Career history: Stints with M&S, Lego, Roadchef, McColls and Musgrave.
Also ran his own consultancy business.
With M&S worked in Asia opening a franchise business where he learnt about negotiating in a tough environment. At RoadChef gained fuel experience running some of the biggest forecourts in the UK
Greatest achievement: Two great kids who love and support each other
Tips: Pick up the phone and share best practices with other retailers
Most Likely to Say: "I think we can drive sales harder"
Least Likely to Say: "Best not do that on my bike it might be dangerous"