#SBS was something that caught my eye from conception. Theo Pathitis was always an easy option to follow on twitter, well before our even entering #SBS, always able to lift a moment with his keen sense of humour, not until we had a major website face-lift did the thought of actually entering #SBS occur, nothing sinister I just thought I could support it better from the outside. Needless to say when our visitor and buyer statistics took a tumble after our redesign, Theo's #SBS retweet was like a jump start for the on-line side of our business, it created continuity until our statistics recovered. I'm born of the Royal Navy and teamwork has always played it's part in my career and my make up, the SBS winners club epitomises teamwork and dedication at every level, and for that, now and in the future I'm proud to be associated with it.
I cut my teeth on sales at an early age in the late 70's, working whilst I was at school on the Wakefield outdoor market, setting up stall each weekday morning and working a full day only on Saturdays at first. When I went into the sixth form I managed to wangle most of my Fridays off, helping Jamie the manager of the stall (a Scottish and always cheerful salesman). We were working on "the" stall on the market owned by the Edwards family called the bargain centre, the name might not mean anything unless you know Chris Edwards, the "Bargain Centre" Market stall became the Bargain Centre stores and the stores became the High-street brand we all know as "PoundWorld". We would draw custom down to the little electrical, pots and pans, toys and battery store with slapstick routines, good humour and to be honest a little bare faced cheek, but it was always about "people", a speciality installed and nurtured by Chris and his family. I probably dwell too long here but let it be said that through sun, rain and snow, that this was "me", and what at later date I would look back on and say "it set the selling seed within my soul".
From leaving the sixth form I suppose I was one of Maggie's experiments, I joined five other youths on an experimental pilot youth training scheme at the public owned British Ropes Ltd in Wakefield, which later was adopted and became the much celebrated and later disbanded YTS scheme. I can only vouch for three out of the original six, those three (me included) are now business owners in their own right, worth pondering for a moment.
On application to the Royal Navy I passed for weapons electrical, but due to the recent Falklands war (it was 1983) there was a 12 months waiting list, this was where another crafty Scotsman, the career's Marine Colour Sgt Major (needing to fill his quota) convinced me I could join as a sonar opperator and swap branches once in, which was a conservative truth bordering on a lie. I would curse him to this day, other than I had the time of my life working and visiting countries around the world including: Germany, Belgium, The Falkland islands (two tours), Barbados and Gibraltar amongst others including most major ports in the UK, eventually (prophetically) working alongside that same colourful Colour Sgt Major for six months in the Leeds careers office.
The legacy the forces left me with was that teamwork works better, and achieves more, than a system where people at every level don't have a vested interest in each other, and the ship.
Leaving the Royal Navy in 1987 I was at a bit of a loss, trying various jobs and careers, changing and gaining experience in management, production and computing. I then on offer (and fortuitous redundancy) joined my father, an electrical engineer and his partner in their business, supplying electrical and engineering components to the material handling businesses. After 12 years and due to a bereavement the company liquidated.
Weighing up my options, along with the support of engineering companies and their engineers, I started our automotive electrical and forklift engineering components business 'ADR Components' in 2003.
We started TheToolBoxShop.com on-line side to our business in 2005, although the workload has been shared through our sales and accounts staff, I've personally turned my busy hands to photographer, designer, HTML wizard (well, semi-wizard), even other shops advisor and added it to my work load and skill base, over the years (some more difficult than others) we've done quite well, moving out of our smaller office/work space, into a large Wakefield city centre unit in April 2010, partly to cope with our larger stock range and partly due to logistical needs. We now have in 2012 a large, international, dedicated and varied repeat customer base, along with local and national account holders. Our business successes I strongly believe are down to our customer service, work ethics and a no compromise attitude to product quality.
I still wear my Union Jack boxer shorts (if only mentally) from my Navy days and will always be passionate about British service and the people in British industry, it's because at every stage of my career I've seen the spirit to work hard and achieve all around me, I respect that above everything else.
How to give out tips?, I tend to give tips on the go, it's usually about the problem in hand, again that's the fault finder in me, why prepare you for everything when the most important thing is the problem sat staring you in the face.
How do I approach a supplier that I really want aboard?, a difficult one because desperation in your eyes means the supplier has the high ground, which can mean a bad deal or worse no deal. If you can enter a suppliers office with the confidence that you can move their products and that your relationship would be mutually beneficial, and when a supplier realizes that you can aid their market retention, you have secured the higher ground. Suppliers have choices and in your early days it is difficult to secure a major supplier without confidence in yourself.
I read this somewhere, liked it, so I'll pass it on, "if you do many things, make sure you do one thing awesome" (it's American). People will always forget the ordinary, the one thing you do extraordinary they will remember you for.
I use an analogy sometimes about the old historical ways the Army and Marine's used to work. The Army officer stood, sometimes miles behind the front-line and instructed the men to jump out of the trenches, which lost more men than it should have. The Marine's officer was in the trenches with his men and jumped out of the trench screaming "follow me", which one are you?, I'd like to hope you'll be drawn to the Marine officer side of the analogy (with a respectful nod to modern Army officers). The Army officer received his long service medals... but the Marine officer became a hero, mortality rate is lower but the rewards for those who succeed are greater, you also retain more of your staff.
People always talk positively about their particular service, only when other people talk positively about your service...will you know your level of service is good.