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

Day in the Life: Nick Lowe

My alarm on my i-watch goes off at 4.45am - technology has moved on a lot in the 25 years I have been working in retail. Breakfast is an almond milk and fruit smoothie, and then I'm ready for the day.

I check off any urgent emails or messages that have come in overnight; our sites operate 24/7 so my field team needs to be able to react to whatever is thrown at them.

On Monday I travel down to our office in Watford from my home in Sheffield a journey of 143 miles that can take between two-and-a-half hours and five hours dependent on how the M1 is feeling that day!

I spend Monday and Tuesday in the office. I hopefully arrive at around 8am and, once my cup of Yorkshire tea is full and positioned on my desk, the day can start.

As operations manager for Rontec, I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of our forecourts. We operate sites in the far reaches of Alnwick, Eurotunnel, Plymouth and Haverfordwest and everywhere in between!

My three regional managers are the first people I speak to. They let me know about any issues that have developed and, most importantly, that all equipment is working, fuel is in the tanks, stock is in the shops, Subways are busy and the valet equipment is operational.

The time in the office is vital to be able to link the support departments with the field team, and the cascading of information to other staff is essential. I have meetings with the property, finance, HR and marketing heads to ensure that our delivery is as good as it possibly can be. It's then time to analyse last week's figures and plan the week ahead.

I'm very proud of the group of people who make up Rontec. Through our acquisitions over the past four years, we have a team made up of ex-Snax 24, ROC and Total people and they've all come together to make a fantastic unit.

This is down, in no small part, to our chairman Gerald Ronson and Tuesday morning is when we hold our senior management meeting.

Mr Ronson celebrates 50 years in the industry this year and he hasn't lost any of his passion or enthusiasm for the business.

He knows every sales figure and site detail and woe betide any of the team who doesn't share the same passion!

When I'm not in the office I'm out visiting our sites with the field team, this is the part of my role I enjoy the most.

We operate a commission operator network and the dedication and commitment our guys and girls put into their businesses never ceases to amaze me. They work tirelessly to ensure our exacting standards are met.

Forecourts have progressed so much in recent years. When I first started in the industry with Conoco Phillips, sites were making big margins on fuel and the stores were little more than CTNs.

Successful sites now have to be able to compete with the big boys but the majors cannot compete with an independent's drive, determination and desire to give customers the best possible service and experience.

Saturdays are spent with the chairman inspecting a group of sites. I will pick him and a number of directors up from a regional airport at 7.30am and drive them to 15 or so sites.

The operators take huge pride in the fact that the chairman has made the effort to visit their site and also cares about their opinions.

Sunday is my family day where I cook a roast and spend quality time with my wife Jen and children Mia, Poppy and Alfie. It's important to try and get as much time with the family as possible, especially as they are growing up so fast.

Somehow, in amongst all this, I have to find time to train for the Paris Marathon. Last year I completed the London Marathon and raised over £4,000 for the RNIB. This year I am running on behalf of the Sheffield Children's Hospital, where Jen is a nurse.

Once homework and baths are complete then there's just time to watch an hour of TV before time for bed, ready to start over again.


Name: Nick Lowe

ob title: Operations manager at Rontec
Career history: Morrison's supermarkets/Conoco Phillips/Fuelforce/Snax 24/Rontec I started with Morrison's at the age of 16, part-time while I took my A-levels, and joined their management trainee scheme the rest is history
Greatest achievement: Professionally, being part of a fantastic small team that purchased a major oil company in Total UK and shaped it into a profitable retail business. Personally, marrying Jen and having three fantastic children
Tips for business success: Surround yourself with people smarter than you; it will inspire you to improve.
Most likely to say: "There's always a solution"
Least likely to say: "Email me rather than calling me"
Other interests: I'm a qualified personal trainer so fitness is important to me.

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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
North West123.0453.80129.56120.69
Northern Ireland121.86125.50120.15
Scotland123.43130.00120.43
South East123.79130.52121.33
South West123.5451.70130.13120.95
Wales122.8952.90129.42120.12
West Midlands122.72130.53120.53
Yorkshire & Humber122.96133.33120.61

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