Stefan Wulkan has been working with ConocoPhillips for a little over 20 years and is now on his third period working in the UK this time as manager, UK & Ireland marketing. He took up the role last autumn and says he is thrilled to be back, although he recognises how things have changed since he was last here in the early part of the century.
"I can see the market has continued to go through a lot of structural changes on both the demand and supply side. There has been a high attrition of retail sites in the country. The population hasn’t reduced but the number of filling options has reduced. Also the supermarkets have gone from strength to strength to become major players.
"The Jet business has also gone through a transition as well in that we have sold our company-owned business, and moved further away from the end customer to concentrate on working with the dealers, and making sure they have a successful business.
"I think that has had a positive impact in that we are focused on doing one thing and doing it very well. We are a dealer-focused organisation, and our aim is to make dealers successful. We are also big suppliers to the supermarkets."
Wulkan believes that he is well prepared to drive the Jet business forward in the UK, following his experience on the marketing side in Sweden, and particularly working on the retail side in the US, which operates in a similar way to the UK in terms of being a business-to-business operation.
"We rely on the partnership with the entrepreneurs the dealers who run their own business, whether they be second or third generation businesses, group dealerships or singleton operators. They are driving their own success. They have a stake in their own business and I find it very gratifying to work in that environment."
But while the fuel retailing market has gone through significant change, Wulkan believes the Jet brand has stood the test of time, and still represents value for money and good service, from locally-based sites.
"Our goal is to help local entrepreneurs to be successful around each of their locations, hence the type of local promotions we do."
An example of this was the recent World Cup Football Shirt Amnesty, in which an incredible 1,087 football shirts were donated. The national ’Dig Out, Drop Off, Donate’ initiative cashed in on World Cup fever, encouraging local communities around 17 of Jet’s sites to dig out and donate last season’s football shirts, or those that they had grown out of. Run in partnership with VSO, the leading international development charity that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries, all of the shirts will now be packaged up and sent to South Africa to be distributed to children and adults through VSO’s network of volunteers and local projects.
Jet has also teamed up with Merlin Entertainments offering ’two for one’ entry in the top attractions around the UK such as Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland and Alton Towers. Every time a motorist spends £20 or more on fuel at a participating Jet site, they receive four ’2 for 1’ entry vouchers.
"We have little aspiration to be a national supplier that doesn’t make sense for us," stresses Wulkan. "Every customer/dealer/entrepreneur we do business with needs to be successful in their own right, and as we do more business with them over time, our success will come as well. We believe in quality rather than quantity.
"We supply our dealer network through our Humber refinery, so our business will be wherever we can supply a site cost-effectively, hence we are predominantly northern-to-Midland based."
Jet is faced with significant competition from the major oil companies in fighting for good dealer business, but Wulkan claims it has been holding its own, and will be rolling out 55 new sites by the end of the year with 31 of those being MRH sites bringing its total network to 377 dealer sites this year.
Wulkan says that one of Jet’s strengths is in recognising that to be successful each dealer site has to establish itself as a unique business within its own neighbourhood.
"That’s where our brand steps in Jet is a well-known brand to the consumer, and there is a good perception around quality fuel at a good price. In our ’Aim4Success’ programme (the mystery motorist standards and service programme, formerly known as Aim Hi, which was relaunched in March) we want to make sure that the experience that the end user has when they visit a Jet-branded forecourt wherever it may be is fairly uniform. Motorists should receive a friendly service, and there should be high standards of health and safety on the site. Behind the scenes we also have a programme of enhancements to our operations most recently we upgraded our fuel ordering fulfilment system.
"This all contributes to our reputation of reliability and being a nice company to do business with!"
Wulkan back in warwick
Stefan Wulkan joined ConocoPhillips in Sweden in 1989, as planning analyst. He gained experience in the industry in many managerial roles in Sweden, America, the UK (both in London and Warwick) and recently as manager of IT and business improvement for the company’s continental business, based in Germany. He was delighted to return to the UK as Jet’s manager, UK and Ireland marketing, last autumn: "The ConocoPhillips UK operation has an excellent reputation, and it’s great to be back in Warwick and to be part of this dynamic team. I’m right back into the swing of marketing and hope to be instrumental in shaping the future success of the company."