We take some time out with industry stalwart Graham Clout, Retail Sales Manager - who talks to us about a role he loves, the importance of nurturing strong relationships and the joy of rediscovering an activity that he thinks may surprise a few people…
Tell us about your career to date with Phillips 66 Limited:
I’ve been with the business 36 years! I left the BBC, saw an ad in the Evening Standard for a role at Conoco (as it was prior to Phillips 66 Limited) applied and got the job. After 3 to 4 years in the London office as a commercial coordinator (ostensibly managing admin for the sales team) I moved to Warwick and took a role in commercial as an account manager. My portfolio included everything from haulage to pig farms and in terms of the richness of human experience and meeting people from all walks of life - it was great. It really was the beginning of understanding the value of building good relationships (plus it came with a car and a phone, which in the 90’s was a big deal!) I then moved from commercial to retail (which involved moving from Warwick to Nottinghamshire) and with it a new set of challenges. Then it was back to Warwick for a National accounts support job before taking up a Supply Optimization role - and what a role! Complex, chaotic (at times), demanding and hugely fulfilling - it was a unique opportunity to work with all aspects of the business from retail to aviation via marine and commercial plus the refinery. It was an invaluable and hugely enjoyable learning experience that continues to inform how I operate in my role today. I then had a short stint in strategy (less said about that the better…) before moving back into sales - where you find me on a less-than-sunny August day!
You are Retail Sales Manager – talk us through the role and the day-to-day challenges:
I look after all the dealer sales - so the dealer sales team, the retail account managers plus responsibility for some of the bigger accounts. No two days are ever the same, so it may be easier to think about an ‘average week’.
Typically I will spend two days working from home and three on the road with customers. I will probably keep returning to it throughout this chat - but I can’t emphasise enough the importance of the relationships we have with our customers. It’s the thing that sets us apart from our competitors - it’s ultimately what weds them to us. Keep it simple and straightforward - commit to the role and the relationship and deliver what you say you’re going to deliver.
Checking in regularly with customers is also an effective way of monitoring industry shifts and moves. Sites get bought and sold all the time - you need to have your ear to the ground and make it your business to know your business.
I have six retail account managers in my team and we have a weekly Monday morning video conference call. I think my leadership style is relatively hands off. I like my team to own their relationships - and while I like to oversee that and get to know as many people as possible - I trust them to make good decisions. They all know that I am always available to advise and support as and when they need it.
Ultimately what we’re striving to achieve is to progress the JET brand - and while it’s often small steps, that’s ok because it’s not just about numbers, it’s about quality. I want the best, the very best sites and we are all focused on achieving that. After all these years I still get a kick out of building our portfolio and I’m proud of the progress we are continuing to make.
Is there something you are working on or a development that you are excited about (and can tell us about…?!)
We are on a roll with new sites - and I feel a real momentum. We are beginning to be approached by people who haven’t approached us for a long time and that’s very gratifying. And I think the reason is a combination of things: offering a better service than our competitors, positive word of mouth plus the Humber refinery is a tangible benefit.
We will have picked up 3 Shell sites this year and that’s very positive and indicative of that momentum. So far this year we’ve secured 19 new sites - and we are working on further opportunities. We are enjoying a sweet spot and that’s a very good place to be.
What do you think the JET brand will look like in 5 years?
I personally believe it will look very similar but with more sites. I would hope that in five years we are happily sat at 350, 360 quality sites (DODO).
Tell us something about you we don’t know.
It may surprise a few people, but I’ve rediscovered a love of angling. It’s a great way to decompress and do something completely different. I love it. I go Carp fishing with my daughter’s partner and I love going to some water and trying to work out where the fish may be etc. It’s very satisfying and relaxing.
In three words tell us the skills/attributes you need to do your job.
Determination, resilience and humour.