Do you spend time talking to CEOs and MDs of other organisations? Do you feel comfortable sharing information about your business, with a view to becoming the best that you can be? Tariq Majid does – and he says that the value he gets from it can’t be underestimated.
Tariq is in charge of Majid & Sons, which he runs from a small office in the back room at Baberbridge Service Station. Baberbridge is one of 10 service stations that the group owns, broadly following the winding path of the M4 out from Hounslow, under the London Heathrow flightpath, to the picturesque Fyfield in Wiltshire.
Majid & Sons was formed by Tariq’s father more than 30 years ago, when he bought a traditional two-pump forecourt store in Overton. Times have changed since then, says Tariq, looking out onto the modern BP-branded forecourt of Baberbridge – Majid & Sons has expanded, and the forecourt business has changed immeasurably.
Tariq has spent the last three years learning about business through Vistage, an “effective leadership programme” through which he meets with the heads of other businesses every month.
Why? “I’ve learned so much,” he says. “My dad claims proudly that he never asked for help from anyone in developing the business – but as I said to him, as soon as you go to the bank, that’s asking for help.
“I know that there’s a lot more that I could be doing, and through Vistage I find out what that might be,” he adds. One of the key things is working out the difference between working “in” the business and working “on” the business.
He restricts the time he spends behind the counter, focusing instead on putting time into the wider issues that affect the business. “That’s one of the most important things that Vistage has taught me,” he says. “I’m glad I didn’t listen to my Dad when he was worried about me telling strangers about my business. It’s the best thing I’ve done!”
Tariq, supported by his operations manager Paul, is working hard to grow business at Baberbridge.
“It’s really tricky at the moment,” he confides. A year ago they switched the fascia to Mace, citing a “brilliant” area rep from Palmer & Harvey that now looks after the whole Majid & Sons group.
Tariq concentrates on the best deals for his customers, ensuring that every category has a range of special offers marked out by PoS or just prominent price-marked packs.
He has also tried different shop layouts to help guide his customers through the store, with a Poundzone on one aisle end and a range of Mace-specific deals on another.
Competition is fierce – and growing. There’s a Costcutter four doors away, as well an Esso garage one mile up the road and a Sainsbury’s filling station a mile down the road the other way. Not only this, but the abandoned pub just the other side of the crossroads on which the site sits is to become a Tesco store within the next three months.
Fighting off the big boys is difficult, admits Tariq, but that won’t stop him trying.
Food to go is key, he says. The Baberbridge store has a large coffee machine, located next to a breakfast snacks display, and a hot food dispenser on the counter. The hot counter gets refilled two-three times during the day, earning around £100, says Tariq.
“It’s not just hot food as well,” says Tariq, pointing out the range of sandwiches in the chiller made in store that day. Adding these into a meal deal, perhaps with a bag of crisps and a drink, is something that Tariq says he is currently considering.
Despite making the store a welcoming environment, putting on a variety of offers and a range of products ideal for the passing impulse customer, the one key issue that is out of control is the price of fuel. On a 140p litre of fuel, he says, he’s lucky to make 0.5p after his costs have been taken out.
Tariq is a member of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, who he seeks advice from regularly. It’s just one example of how Tariq realises that going it alone is impossible – and that there’s no harm in asking for advice.