A typical working day starts at approximately 7am when I get up and get ready for another eventful day as a petrol retailer.
Before heading to the office, which is four miles from my home, I nip to the pub! Not for a drink but to feed the chickens and goats. I bought our local public house in 2009 and it’s given me almost as many sleepless nights as the forecourts we operate!
I get into the office around 8.30am. After checking my emails I usually have a business update with my operations director and finance director. Decisions for the week are made and relayed to the operations and site managers.
I have been in the industry for over 40 years and have seen huge developments during this time.
My first experience within the petrol industry was with Shell-Mex and BP in 1963. I remember working in a pub near Shell-Mex house in Manchester and ’blagging’ an interview for a reps’ job. I borrowed a suit for the interview and the rest is history!
The company moved me to Leicester to set up a direct management firm called ’Saint’ Service Stations as a trial.
I left in 1975 to start my own business initially operating one company-owned site. Over the years we have acquired, developed and sold sites. We currently operate 28.
At one stage we diversified into the sporting arena by purchasing and operating Admiral Sportswear (UK). It was a very interesting period in my life, when I was successfully negotiating with England, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and many other clubs to supply their strip for a number of seasons.
Back to now, and I check Platts pricing on a daily basis and make adjustments to our prices based upon volume performance and competitor price moves. I do test the elasticity of our pricing to make sure optimum margins are achieved across the network.
We have a monthly sales meeting, usually the nearest working day to the 6th of the month. Operations managers and directors are invited. We usually kick off with breakfast at a local eatery at around 8am, followed by a review of site performance and outstanding issues from the previous month.
I feel it is essential to keep ’your finger on the pulse’ and being kept informed of events happening around the estate makes decision-making swift and efficient. Corrective measures can be employed to remedy situations that arise on a daily basis, making for a smooth seamless operation, or at least that is the idea! I visit as many sites as possible each month with my operations managers. I think it’s great to spend time on-site interacting with staff and customers. This is where I am at my happiest. I also visit sites on a random basis with the operations director where we carry out a business review. This is great because it focuses on the detail, results are discussed with managers, and an action plan is devised for areas of improvement.
We have an annual conference where the winners of our Reward and Recognition Scheme are announced. Staff are recognised for outstanding performance, and trophies and holidays are given away. It’s a great way to let our hair down and have a bit of fun, something that’s sadly lacking and is overlooked in our daily grind.
We seem to be in constant discussions about the profitability of parts of the network. Reliance on valeting is a dangerous ploy. Hand wash companies are becoming more professional and forcing rollover operators to consider alternative uses for this once bountiful source of income.
Shop margins are also being squeezed so we have to scrutinise every aspect of our business to evaluate whether we are operating to our full potential.
Depending on the day of the week, my day usually ends around 5.30pm when I wind my way back to the pub to check on events of the day and decide whether to book ’Elvis’, ’Frank’ or ’Tina’ for the following month’s events!
Job title: Managing director, Hockenhull Garages
Responsibility: Driving the business forward; visits as many sites as he can each month
Career history/biog: Started with Shellmex and BP in 1963. Was involved in ’Saint’ Service Stations. Set up Hockenhull Garages in 1975. Bought
a pub in 2009
Greatest achievement: "Perhaps not my greatest achievement, but I enjoyed negotiating with football teams, including England, when our company owned Admiral Sportswear (UK)
Most likely to say: "Who is funding it?"
Least likely to say: "I don’t need to know that"
Tip for business success: "Question everything"
Other interests: Tennis, fast cars, fruit