Oliver Mueller – Retail Business Manager
This month we shine a spotlight on Oliver Mueller, who shared his thoughts on an itinerant 20+ year career with Phillips 66, a love for classic spots cars and a nod to the wise words of Mark Twain.
Tell us about your career, to date, with Phillips 66 and describe your current role.
Like many job titles mine says everything and says nothing! I am in charge of the JET branded business in the UK. Ostensibly I’m here to grow that business and to foster and take care of the brand. And within that remit, there are two channels – company owned, dealer operated (CODO) and dealer-owned, dealer-operated (DODO) sites. And every five years or so the DODO sites make a decision as to whether they want to stay with us as a brand (or not). If you were to drill down the role, it would be to make sure they love being with us and want to stay longer and to bring friends to join the JET network.
And how did I get here? Luck! I’ve been with the company more than 20 years and initially started working with the JET brand in Germany in their shop department where we created the concepts and procured the goods. I was initially responsible for alcohol, tobacco and fireworks – which made me extremely popular! I then moved from Hamburg to South Bavaria to take up a district manager role before moving into procurement. A few years later and prior to being selected for the Procurement Manager role I spent six months in the US before returning to Hamburg. And from there I came to the UK to take up my current role.
I think it is increasingly rare for people to stick with a single employer for 20+ years but Phillips 66 offer the potential for new roles in different locations with lots of opportunities. And it’s smart because it keeps people interested and engaged. There’s a working continuity that is both rare and valuable.
You moved to London in 2019 to take up your current position. What were the initial challenges and how different is the UK market compared to Germany?
It’s very different! In Germany, JET is no.3 in the market with a market share of 10% (give or take). Here in the UK we have about 2% of the retail market share (CODO and DODO) and we are not viewed as a major player. So I guess I learnt to be a little more humble and to understand that growing the brand was going to be a challenge. I also joined at a time when company-owned sites were being started and I think it was a big part of why I was offered the role – it was definitely something that was hugely attractive to me. Being given that rarest of opportunities to (in essence) be part of a ‘start-up’ to create and build something from scratch was exciting. We now have 11 CODO sites and there is always an appetite to build our portfolio. Volumes and profits are as anticipated and that is very positive.
And the CODO sites give us huge credibility. We are ‘putting our money where our mouth is’ and we are demonstrating that the things we are asking our dealers sites to invest in are worthwhile. It is a great way of building the brand and the brand’s credibility. Rather than just talking about the new branding – we can jump in a car, go to a CODO site and actually show our dealers. It’s the ultimate calling card.
It’s a time of transition for the industry – what do you see as the primary challenges for retailers in 2023?
To keep retail forecourts relevant and to keep the customers that have transitioned to EV. We need to manage this within our company-owned sites whilst also working with our JET dealers to manage the transition. And this is something for right now – however, having said that, finding the right balance between how much right now is difficult. Doing nothing is clearly not an option but going out all guns blazing is also not an option – so it’s all about finding the right balance between the new and the old. Investing in emerging energies is hugely important but we mustn’t forget or ignore the main business. We need to continue to look after and provide a high quality service to all our customers.
The ambition is to keep the JET brand relevant throughout the transition and for it to remain relevant post-transition. To attract and serve many customers and for the business to remain viable. And that will include a mixture of fuels.
How will the forecourt look? It will be very similar to the forecourt we see today. Change is always gradual. The number of sites with EV chargers will increase – but the essence of what a forecourt is will remain the same. Will they look like a shiny Apple store? I don’t think so. It will continue to cater to the needs of the drivers. Providing energy improving lives is our mantra, our drive at Phillips 66 – and irrespective of the types of energy, that ethos won’t change
Tell us something about you we don’t know.
I am a bona fide petrol-head when it comes to cars. There has been a Porsche 911, a Citroen DS, a 1502 BMW Lotus – and while they sound grand, they were all run down and falling apart. I love older vintage sports cars – but right now, I don’t have a car at all! And my ultimate car? It would have to be a Lotus Elan from the 1960s. So much fun to drive – and yes the bumpers fall off when you break but it’s a lovely lovely car to drive.
Is there a piece of business advice you have taken with you in your career?
Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t forget to keep listening. And people who disagree with you often know more than you do. No assumptions! And its genesis is a wonderful Mark Twain quote: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Give us three words that sum up the attributes you need to fulfil your role.
Serve the business.