My alarm goes off at 7am. Five minutes later, I am downstairs buttering bread and making sandwiches for all the family. After getting ready for work, I drop our youngest, George aged 10, off at school and arrive in the office at around 8.30am. The action starts immediately, setting the day’s prices after receiving the Platts figures overnight, checking stock levels at terminals, ensuring that we are aware of any general operational issues.
The order taking and routing of tankers is now in full swing. We are a closely knit team of four, responsible for the scheduling and delivery of fuel to the Gulf network. With sites from the tip of Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides and a network that is rapidly expanding, the job can be daunting and it comes with a fair amount of stress. When you spend so many hours a day in work it is important to enjoy the work and I certainly do. It is one of the reasons that I have lasted so long in the industry.
The recent snowfall created a logistical nightmare for all those people up and down the country who manage deliveries and vehicle logistics. Road closures, traffic gridlocks and reduced fleet numbers are just some of the tests we faced. On top of that our office is based in Leeds where heavy snow fell, so getting to work was a challenge in itself for the team Nicola, David, Judy and me.
It is at times like this, when the elements are against us and everything else seems to be conspiring, that we prove we are worth our salt excuse the pun! We try to maintain a light-hearted approach and stay calm, a clear head is essential under such circumstances. Even with a fleet of 600 tankers at our disposal, the Siberian snows meant that we had to be absolutely on our game, constantly keeping abreast of road closures and weather patterns around the UK, managing expectations and somehow delivering products with minimal disruption. As large parts of the UK were frozen to a standstill, each day ended with us absolutely shattered, yet there is no better sense of achievement than knowing that you have defied the odds to keep the network operational.
Our brief also extends beyond orders and transportation to include managing the network’s pump maintenance arrangements and forecourt signage. These roles occupy a significant part of any day.
Gulf prides itself on the quality of its service and we ensure that in everything we do, the customer is at the forefront of our actions. It really annoys me the way that some companies promote customer service and yet provide nothing of the sort. Sitting on the end of a phone listening to a nondescript voice telling you to continue to hold because you’re a valued customer who are they kidding?
Gulf customers know that they will receive a personal service from the order office. We have an automated routing programme but choose not to use it because our customers prefer our traditional method. Dealers order fuel by phone and ask for us by name. They know that we have an understanding of their forecourt layouts, load preferences and opening hours. We don’t talk about a slot or window in seven days’ time; we ask them about tomorrow or at worst, the day after. They see us as the frontline for Gulf and so do we.
The pace slackens in the office after 5pm, when we start prioritising work load for the next day. I try to get away by 6.30pm, if not my wife Debbie invariably texts me to find out whether I intend to eat with the family.
After 18 years of marriage, I just ride the waves although with my eldest son, Jack, 15, recently discovering girls and hair dye, who wouldn’t want to be at the Hobson dinner table to hear his latest life experiences?
Company: Gulf Retail
Job title: Commercial Manager
Career history: Joined the oil industry in 1985, was Transport Manager at Bayfords before joining Gulf in 2004
Greatest achievement: Taking two hat-tricks in cricket and hitting a 10-dart finish
Tips for business success: Enjoy the job and try to stay calm, even in the most difficult circumstances
Most likely to say: "Yes, we can"
Least likely to say: "That’s not possible"
Other interests: My two young sons aged 10 and 15 and sport, although my playing days in football and cricket are over