A little over 23 years ago I left Shell UK to join Murco Petroleum as a business development manager in the South East. Responsible for an area of Murco dealer sites across Kent, Surrey, Sussex and beyond, my first encounter with one larger-than-life customer involved being greeted like a family friend initially, only to be told to clear off rather colourfully all within the space of 20 minutes. Thankfully, this turn of events was due entirely to a ’misunderstanding’ with my then boss and introductions to the remainder of my new customers didn’t provoke any similar outbursts! However, for me, it was an early lesson learned as to the importance of clear and effective communication and getting relationships right.

In my time with Murco, I’ve been fortunate to be employed in quite a number of different roles within sales and marketing but the dealer market has always been closest to my heart. It can be hugely challenging but equally rewarding, and a Murco ’dealer gain’ still provides the same great adrenalin rush.

I’ve held my current position of dealer sales manager for the past six years. One of the joys of the role is that there is no such thing as a typical day. Responsible for all aspects of the company’s retail fuels sales operation to its 220-plus dealers nationwide, working days usually start early and finish late. But that’s not a complaint as these days are always interesting and mostly very enjoyable. Not a bad mix in my opinion. Of course, ’office days’ whether in St Albans or at home are important but face-to-face meetings are hard to beat. Consequently, a lot of time is spent on the road and my travels around the UK take me to some of the most (and least) beautiful places that the country has to offer.

I am in daily contact with my great team of business development managers and try to spend as much time ’on area’ with them as possible. In addition to helping build the strong customer relationships that Murco has always encouraged, on rare occasions these trips around the network have been known to provide me with an opportunity to add to the collection of old petrol pump globes and assorted industry ’tat’ that adorn my office walls at home usually after a protracted negotiation of course!

All of Murco’s dealers’ motor fuel requirements are supplied on a strictly contractual basis, so fuel supply agreements are constantly under negotiation. Success in this area is key to everything that my team and I do, and leading the most critical of these negotiations with both existing and potential new customers is without question how I most like to spend my working day.

With so much pressure on retail fuel margins and volumes recently, even more of my time than usual is being spent on pricing issues. As always, there’s a fine line to be drawn between providing our customers with realistic prices and keeping Murco in business!

Direct communication with customers on important industry topics such as margin availability provides me with a great opportunity to help cement trading partnerships. I know a lot of our dealers very well and when times are tough it’s important to remember, whether supplier or customer, we’re all in it together.

I started by saying that this business really is all about the people, and our industry undoubtedly attracts some exceptional characters. So many customers, colleagues, suppliers and dare I say even one or two competitors are simply good people to be around.

As I sit at home tapping out these words on the laptop, it’s important that I remember the people here too! There’s rarely a dull moment, with up to seven of us at home at any one time. Nights away are unavoidable but when I do get home after a day of being pleasant (usually!) to customers and colleagues, I try to avoid falling into the trap of being tired and grumpy with the family least of all my partner Sue, who supports me so wonderfully in everything I do.

Jim Mulheran:

Job title: Dealer sales manager

Responsibility: Growing the company’s retail dealer network and managing all aspects of the dealer sales operation to Murco-branded customers throughout the UKCareer history: Joined the oil industry at Shell in 1983, before moving to Murco in 1988Tips for business success: If you promise to do something, make sure you do it!Most likely to say: "Come on Chelsea!"Least likely to say: "Great! Another e-mail"Other interests: Family activities; watching football rather than playing it these days; riding my motorbike (when the sun shines); and playing golf badly!