JET GOES ‘BEHIND THE BUSINESS’ TO MEET SAM BARBER, FORECOURT MANAGER, OAKLEY SERVICE STATION – WHOSE A-GRADE CUSTOMER-FIRST APPROACH IS HITTING TOP MARKS.
Talk to us about how you came to be at JET Oakley
It really was a case of being in the right place at the right time! I was at Uni in Durham studying IT and had a Saturday job at Oakley, working on the tills. The manager was about to go on maternity leave and the owners asked if I would be up for taking on the role in her absence and as I was just about to graduate I happily accepted. Then, when the previous manager decided not to return, they asked me if I would like to stay on permanently as Forecourt Manager. That was four years ago – and although it was a steep learning curve, their belief in me gave me real confidence – and it’s turned out really well!
Take us through a typical day as Manager at Oakley Service Station
It’s safe to say that no two days are ever the same - and that’s part of what I like about it. First off, I make sure the shift admin is sorted and then I take care of any fuel and/or produce deliveries. Stock the shelves and then it’s down to the paperwork - and there’s a lot of it! I also jump on the till as and when I’m needed throughout the day. We’re a busy team!
We hear you’ve had a ‘stormy’ relationship with the new branding – tell us more!
We were holding off on having the new branding - but mother nature had other ideas! When we had the big storm earlier in the year, it ripped a load of panels off the underside of the canopy. So having spoken to our account manager Gary Conway - we signed a new deal and agreed to crack on with the refurb and the new imaging etc. And once everything was agreed it only took a couple of weeks to actually do the work. Really impressive and with minimum impact on the business.
And how have your customers responded to the new look?
They think it looks tidy. Much more up-to-date and definitely smarter. A great contrast of colours that really stand out.
You are a young, successful forecourt manager – from your experience, what are the qualities your need to run a thriving service station?
You’ve got to be customer-focused with a customer-first approach. You need to be prepared to bend over backwards to give a consistently great service and to provide your customers with what they need. Our regulars will often ask us if we can stock a particular item and we will always do our best to source it for them - be it a particular brand of drink or a new flavour of crisps. This job also requires you to be flexible. I’m on call 24/7 - and even though we close at 7, if anything happens I will always be the first to come down and sort it out. And if someone calls in sick, then I will cover the shift. We are a small team and you need to be prepared to get stuck in and do what’s needed to get the job done, and done well. Be prepared for the unexpected!
In your four years at Oakley what have been the standout moments?
The storm was definitely dramatic and a memory that will definitely stay with me. Another standout moment is how busy we’ve been since the fuel price has dropped plus we’ve just had a Sure Site inspection and scored 100%! Apparently it is quite rare to get full marks - so we will take that! We have a sign that we are keen to display - but the window it will go on is waiting to be replaced as a customer with a boat misjudged his exit and shattered the glass. Never a dull moment!
Tell us a little about your relationship with JET
Oakley has been with JET for 20 years! I was introduced to Gary early on by the previous manager and we’ve developed a good relationship. He’s a busy man but he pops in when he can and I know I can text him at any point if there’s any problems. Definitely a good, supportive relationship. JET have been good to me since I started and I know they’ve been good to the owners as well. We are customer-focused in our approach and JET are the same. There’s a shared work ethic/ethos. And they continue to offer really good value for money.
Tell us about your customers - how important is Oakley to the community?
We are getting new people in all the time - but we also get regulars in every day. We see them coming and we already have their products waiting for them! It’s really important that you stock for your market. We have big supermarkets close to us - and so we can’t compete with that. But our customers will pop in to pick up a sandwich for lunch and snacks and basics. It’s about listening to your customers and learning their buying needs and habits.
It’s a busy time – what does the next 12 months look like for Oakley?
More of the same and business as usual. As long as we keep our focus on our customers and stick to our strengths, we will continue to do well.
Sum up your job in 3 words
Hectic but satisfying.