I started working in our family store when the family moved to Doncaster in 1984. I had a chose to make at that time, either to stay on at college and finish my education or to work alongside my brother is our families new venture, I chose the latter. During the course of the next few years we went on to open another three stores, in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and the one we still own in Auckley Doncaster. After working in the business for 8 years, I decided I needed a change of career as I was finding it difficult to be away from my wife and young children due to the long hours and demands of the business so went to work for BT and soon started building a career with them.
My elder brother managed the business and when he sadly died the business ran in to difficulties. My wife and I were soon faced with letting the business collapse or taking over one of the shops. Not an easy decision with a young family, but one that we felt that we had to accept. To begin with my wife, Sharan undertook the day to day running of the store in Auckley which is on the outskirts of Doncaster. I continued my career with BT and worked in the shop in the evening and days off. It was tough going but we were able to stabilise the business and start to think about how to develop our takings and profitability. I eventually left BT in 2004 and became fulltime in the business.
The shop that we took on was 900 square feet which we knew was too small to deliver the style of convenience offering that we wanted to achieve. Whilst I was still at BT I had seen a Store in North Hykeham that I found truly inspirational and I used this as a template to grow and develop our own store. It was in the 2000 and at the time I was still working for BT, and I was reluctantly persuaded to join a family member to join him on a Spar study tour around Lincolnshire. So when a couple of years later we went back into retail business, it was the first store I took my wife to so I could show her of the vision I had for our own store.
What we did know from the first day of managing our business was that any dreams of developing the store would take time to deliver as first we had to get the costs under control and sales growing. We put together a phased plan to first become profitable and then to use these to improve and eventually expand the store. The plan took a decade to bring to fruition. In 2011 with the help and guidance of our Spar wholesaler, AF Blackmore we built an extension to the sales floor and grew our sale floor to 2400 square feet. With a sales increase of nearly 100% we exceed our break even turnover from the first week.
My 13 years with BT taught me many useful lessons:
- Business success is about managing change effectively.
- Greater success will be achieved with the involvement and support of your team.
- Hire the correct people.
- Train them for the job you want them to do.
- Manage your people.
- The discipline to manage your time and resources.