Behind the Business
JET Borough Park
Meet Richard Nixon
We took some time out with Richard Nixon – ‘president’ of JET Borough Park station and a growing portfolio of successful sites who’s on a mission to turn his forecourts into community hubs – offering a customer-first experience, that is never boring.
Talk us through how you came into the industry?
I was tootling along quite happily as a Safeways store manager and then following the Morrisons takeover I moved to a store in Doncaster. Somerfield then bought that store and I was ‘encouraged’ to move on. And so in 2007, following the acquisition of Fuel Force by Somerfield I moved into forecourts. I have to admit to having low expectations – but I loved it!
I then worked for Nick Baker (who has a number of JET sites) and I got some insights into how family-run businesses are run – and I remember having a “I can do that” moment. So at the age of 51 I decided to jump in and come to the market. I always felt that we could do it really well, better even. I love the forecourt environment.
JET Borough Park
What do you love about it?
So many things! The people who work in this environment don’t realise the skill sets they have. Their loyalty to the site and the business has always struck me. I also felt it was an industry where I could make my mark. I had a clear idea that a service station could/should be a hub for the community. It felt like an untapped opportunity and when I got my first site I thought “OK here we go – game on!.”
Talk us through a typical day…
No two days are ever the same – and that’s part of the fascination. I’ll get up, have a bit of breakfast and then I’ll check emails and look at the cornerstones of the business – including what the bank account’s looking like! My time now is largely focused on planning. Looking at new initiatives, making sure we execute properly. We’re currently looking at another site in Caister – which will bring us to three. Ostensibly my role is about future, planning and development.
Tell us about any stand-out moments?
We do a lot our own initiatives such as scratch cards, raffles, sponsoring local football teams, charity bingo – lots to keep people entertained and engaged. And I had a customer come in one day, a local pig farmer, and he said “You know, I love coming in here because there’s always something going on”. And I loved that, it was a really good moment.
It feels a bit strange blowing our own trumpet but when we took over in 2015, it was doing less than 30,000 litres a week and we now average 88,000 litres and we had one week where we topped 100,000. I’m very proud of that – and the way that we’ve done it.
Tell us a little about your relationship with JET
When we bought South Elmsall (our first site) it was already a JET site. And because I knew of JET through working with Nick, it was a relatively smooth and straightforward transition. The bottom line? They are really nice people and that is so important. Easy-going, nothing is too much trouble. And we talk all the time – there’s a really nice family feel. I want honest and straightforward and that’s what you get with JET. Nothing ever runs smoothly 100% of the time – but all you ask for is honesty and a willingness, together, to sort any issues out. We’ve just changed retail account manager and we’re now working with Martin Smith – and he’s settled in really really well.
Tell us about your leadership style
I like to give people a chance to flourish. If you want an insight in to whether you are leading well then look at labour retention. Our industry has a bad reputation for quick turnover of staff. To stop that you have to value your people. We are a close knit team and we spend proper time with interviewees to get to know them and vice versa. I want people to want to be here. We have a low turnover – and that makes me happy.
If you have a supported, valued team who want to be here – you will see sales go up. You’ve got to work hard to keep the love and loyalty – from you staff and your customers. If I do have a leadership style it’s definitely a people-first approach. Take time to get to know your staff – you’ll be amazed to know what they do and the skills they can bring to the table
If I drove onto Borough Park forecourt for the first time – what experience do you want me to have?
First off we aim to exceed your expectations. As a starter, we will get all the basics right – tidy forecourt, easy fill, paying for the right pump! Also a well-stocked shop and some genuine interaction – asking about your day, if you need anything else etc. When our customers leave I want them to have felt welcomed and that they are worth something. An enjoyable, memorable experience – and one you want to repeat.
Three words to describe the qualities you need to be successful in your role?
Enthusiastic, driven, caring.
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