Behind the Business with... JET Brentford

April 12, 2021

Manoj Agnihotri tells us about his role as business development manager, sharing memories from serving Stormzy, to crafting a pandemic-proof retail strategy and what his customers love most about the new branding.

Congrats on your 25th anniversary with JET that’s coming up soon… Have there been any standout moments over the years? And what are some of your best memories over that time?

Thank you, well it’s been quite a journey! My earliest memories are of my dad working within the forecourt sector with JET. He started within the industry in 1974 and we took over our current site in 1996 and has worked tirelessly ever since to make the business what it is today. Even now he’s semi-retired, he still likes to come in for an hour or two every day, manning the tills or chatting to customers. I’ll often sit and have a coffee and a catch-up with him and get his valuable opinions thoughts and experience in taking our business forward.

And as for a stand-out moment? It’s hard to choose just one, but I would say seeing JET advertised on the TV for the first time. It was momentous and people were coming in, commenting on it. We really noticed the brand recognition go up after that among our customers.

You have a great working relationship with JET. Tell us about that.

It’s a relationship founded on trust and honesty. We really value that and it’s why we’ve re-signed. Everyone we work with is fantastic, particularly our account manager, Chris Murphy, who is a real asset. Chris is my main point of contact and perfectly balances the business with the human touch – over the years he’s become as much a friend as a colleague. We’ve always appreciated the straightforward but flexible approach Chris and the wider team take. Instead of telling us what he/JET wants from us, he asks what we need of them to continue our successful working relationship.

What do you like most about the new branding and refit?

Our site was a prototype for the wider rebrand, so we were one of the first to have it done. As soon as I saw the new look, I was immediately impressed. It ticks all my boxes, it’s modern, fresh and most importantly, makes people feel safe, especially when it’s all lit up at night. I love the shade of grey they’ve used too. It feels fashionable and the new uniforms complement it. Most of all, it encourages people to come in and that’s what matters most. We want everyone to feel welcome.

What have your customers said they like most about the new branding?

So many people have commented on it! People have said it’s ‘cool’, ‘trendy’, ‘modern’… and it’s completely different to other forecourts. You can feel how much everyone appreciates and likes it.

People have said it’s ‘cool’, ‘trendy’, ‘modern’…

Take us through a day in your life as business development manager.

My day always starts with a family breakfast. It’s important to have that quality time before the day unravels. I then arrive in at work around 9.30am, make all my staff a coffee – it’s a nice way for us to all get together before the business of the coming day. My staff are my biggest asset, so I like to remind them of how important they are to me and the company with the small gesture of a cup of coffee together at the beginning of every day. And to that end – we didn’t have to furlough anyone at any point during the pandemic and have even hired two new members of staff! After that, I sit down at my computer to work for a bit, meet new suppliers survey the shop floor to see what’s happening and the rest of the day speeds away.

Over the last year, have you seen much of a change in your customers’ buying habits?

At the start of the pandemic, sales shot up and with the demand, the challenge was to maintain levels. Right at the start we made a decision to keep our store doors and serve through the night pay window this was due to keeping both our customers and staff as safe as possible. Once we’d set up all the necessary protective guards invested in fogging units and air sterilisers and got all the gear, we were able to reopen again. Business was initially sporadic; busy one day, quiet the next. So, it’s definitely been a test, but we’ve adapted and shaped our service to meet the requirements of our locals. We had to step up to supply the whole community when they needed it most and now, we’re selling all the products they’ve asked for, from stocking gluten free foods to easy ready meals and even organic wine. You’ve got to listen to your customers and keep them happy. We also partnered up with a delivery service for customers whom were shielding.

What’s the coolest/most unusual product you sell?

Probably a £200 bottle of tequila! Some of our locals would have gone into the city for after-work/weekend drinks before and now they’re having to stay home, they’re starting to come to us for premium products. We also have a few celebs in our neighbourhood, like Stormzy, Ant & Dec and lots of footballers! So, now we have a pretty impressive fine spirits and wine collection.

What is one thing you wish people knew about you/your industry?

How hard we work! No day is the same and it can be tough sometimes, with the long, irregular hours. It’s also very hands-on and fast-paced, but it does make the day go by quickly.

Sum up your job in three words.

Challenging, changeable, busy.

We’re moving into a new phase of easing restrictions – can you tell us if you have any plans for this?

I’m anticipating that it’ll get even busier, so we’ll need to increase our staff numbers, but it’s also difficult to say as there are a lot of unknowns with people now working from home and having virtual meetings. We’ve been given some cool torches from JET for the customers, so we’ll be giving those out soon.