Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

Day in the Life: Colin Levy

My day usually starts at 6.30am, when I get dressed then take our two spaniels for their morning workout. I live close to a country park which is a blessing as both dogs are young with plenty of energy to burn. I use the time to think through the day ahead.

Certas Energy is a young, dynamic and ambitious company. I joined from BP in May 2015 and, in a short space of time, the company has grown rapidly. We supply fuel to around 1,200 independently owned sites including 500 Gulf-branded forecourts. Certas Energy also has a network of 23 company-owned outlets, including two recently acquired from the Co-op. The sites are primarily located within the central belt of Scotland. I manage the operational performance and business development of these sites from our Scottish HQ in Larbert.

I try to balance my working week so that I am in the office for two or three days, with the rest of my time spent meeting people. I have responsibility for over 200 employees and visiting our forecourts is a priority. I'm currently finding out what our employees enjoy about their jobs, what they don't and what needs to change. I am always looking at ways of improving standards of customer service, but am equally eager to introduce a better rewards and benefits package. We have some fantastic talent in our business at all levels. I want to make sure that their skills are properly recognised and valued.

Since joining I've had to become very disciplined with my time.

I'm not sure I fully realised the demands of the job before, but I certainly do now. I've found that as we expand more and more, companies are interested in working with us. That's good news from the point of view of having the widest possible pool to learn from, but it does require a tight rein.

We recently converted seven sites from Shell to Gulf, with volume gains across the majority. It has been satisfying to see at first hand that our style of operation, backed by the Gulf brand and our cross-acceptance agreement on Shell, BP and Gulf fuels cards, is a recipe for business growth. We are now looking at a shops' refresher programme, which means spending a lot of time with contractors. As no two shops have the same footprint, it adds to the challenge.

Certas Energy is a much smaller company than BP and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing the positive impact of change on people and the business. We are able to implement things very swiftly; at BP it could take much longer. I also enjoy our monthly Retail Review meetings where we compare notes with our colleagues on the dealer market. Independent forecourt operators are the lifeblood of our business and in general are excellent entrepreneurs. We are always interested in new ideas and initiatives and likewise, if we have tested something successfully, we will make it available to our dealers.

Our offices are situated in Larbert, only an eight-minute drive from my home, and I aim to be back by 6pm most evenings. I then tend to walk the dogs with my wife of 33 years, Gail, and find out all the family news. Our oldest daughter recently gave birth to our first grandchild, so there is a wonderful buzz of excitement around. It's difficult in this business to fully switch off, but I try my best.  My interest in music and sport are great distractions. I'm a big fan of Paul Weller and an avid follower of Scottish football. Another passion is travel, and now that the children are grown up, we do more of this. I've never liked heights, and that extends to high bridges. On a recent trip to New York I had to turn back when walking the Brooklyn Bridge.

I've three younger brothers, two of whom work off-shore (Norway and Angola) so it seems that the fuel business is in our blood.  Family life is something I value very highly. Changing nappies and babysitting are not my forte although, by all accounts, my efforts are competent.


Name: Colin Levy

Company: Certas Energy
Job title: Retail operations director
Career history: 20 years' experience in forecourt retailing, primarily with BP and partner companies. Responsible in Scotland, North West and North East of England for rolling out BP's M&S stores programme
Greatest achievement: My two daughters Claire, 28 and Emma, 26
Tips for business success: Always treat people how you would expect to be treated yourself
Most likely to say: Are you aboard the train?
Least likely to say: Let's take a gamble and do it anyway
Other interests: Team sports, walking my dogs and listening to The Who

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 11 December 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East123.7065.90130.36121.00
East Midlands123.22132.06120.72
London123.2858.90131.75120.77
North East122.41132.57120.03
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West Midlands122.72130.53120.53
Yorkshire & Humber122.96133.33120.61

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