the BIG interview I have the independence

required to set and execute the direction for the business

for smaller manufacturers and distributors. I ran my own successful company for six years until I sold it in the mid 90’s. Those six years taught me a huge amount about building a business. It was tough and you can feel very alone at times, however building something from nothing, feeding yourself from the profits and reinvesting the money you’ve made in growing the business in a sustainable way were invaluable lessons. I’ve drawn on those days many times over the years. Since that time I have run a few companies for other people and I have always run them as if they were my own. I firmly believe this allows me to make smart, ethical and considered choices in everything I do. I also believe in building businesses with teams who are engaged in, and passionate about, that business. Several of our competitors have huge turnover without making any profit. I’ve yet to read the book that tells me their way is better than mine, but I have a thirst for knowledge and an open mind, so I’ll keep reading!”

I believe in building

businesses with teams who are engaged in, and passionate about, that business

So how does Steve see his past experiences

informing his current role? “The knowledge I’ve gained over the years in other sectors is proving to be invaluable. It’s important to me that we deal with our customers in a way in which we would want to be dealt with ourselves. As an example, our retailers tell me that my sales team is trusted to go to their stock room and build an order. That speaks volumes for the partnerships we have built in the market. A Chinese proverb says that “The fish rots from the head down” and this is so true in modern businesses. Bad leaders create bad teams with short term views and little or no strategy. I believe if you are decent, consistent and fair you will win lots of friends in anything you do. This is a fantastic market sector. Alongside my team I really love what we do, and in a world where you can be anything you want to be, why would you not be measured and considerate in all that you do?” Steve and Pik-a-Pak’s commitment to the

retail sector has been reflected in the company scooping a number of awards in recent years,

December 2019/January 2020

including Best Distributor Award at the IER Awards in May. What does this mean to him? “At the heart of everything we do, I want customer service to play a major role. It’s an overused cliché and many have little knowledge of how to give good customer service. However, we are all consumers and we all have experiences of good and bad service, sometimes on a daily basis. Why would you ever want to replicate the bad in any business you are running? Therefore, we have little choice but to run a company that provides great customer service. Indeed, why would you strive to do anything else? And I want us to do that quietly and professionally in the hope that this great service is recognised by our customers, who in turn tell more people who also become customers and so on. After a few years of producing great quality products we started to become recognised by our key customers for the operational excellence we were achieving. When we won our first award, I took it for a tour of the building to show every team member that they had won this for us. So many people asked if they could take a selfie of themselves holding the award. That’s how much it means to me and how much it means to everyone in the team. I did the same when we won our second award and again when we won the third. That feeling doesn’t get old for me or for the team, so bring on award number four please!” It's no secret that these are tough times

for independent retailers, so how does Steve see Pik-a-Pak helping the independent sector continue to compete and be successful in a competitive market? “As I said earlier, we have competitors who are either losing

this is a fantastic market sector

partnerships have always

been at the heart of everything we do

money or making little profit today and that is unsustainable. Unfortunately, their knee jerk reaction to making no money is to destabilise the market with guerilla tactics as they “dump” products into the market at cost or below cost. That’s not good for the retailer in the long term as it simply forces the price down in the market for the consumer and means that retailers earn nothing. Our proposition on Statesman for example has been consistent since we bought the business in 2013. We have supported the independents with a brand which is not in the multiples or online, and the brand allows the retailer to make money. I’ve had my own company as I said, and I wouldn’t give floor space to any brand that didn’t support me. Having dedicated teams supporting the brand and having spares in stock are the norm in my book. You can’t build a house from the roof down. The foundation of our business is built solidly on bedrock of quality and good customer service and our business booms alongside our retailers for that reason. I love what we manage to achieve together. I believe the retailer wants to buy from someone with knowledge and understanding of the products and the market, from someone who shares their values and has their best interests at heart. Remember the phrase “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”? Partnerships have always been at the heart of everything we do, and there will be much more of that for the independents in the future on Ewbank, Ariete and Igenix.” | 11

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