I left school at the age of 15 and joined Wymans a retail Newsagent group as a trainee relief manager. After 12 months I became relief manager for the area of Birmingham to North Wales covering all outlets.
An early age but at that time National Service was in operation and it was a matter of do the job or else. Following this I served 3 years in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; two and a half years of the three from 1957 to1959 were on active service in Cyprus during the Greek and Turkish troubles. The remainder of my time was of course spent training and I completed my service in Germany in 1960.
On returning to normal life I reentered the newsagent trade with a small but growing company in London called NSS. After a short while I joined W D and H 0 WILLS this being my first outside selling job and this gave me the taste for selling in the true sense. As would be expected I started from the bottom of the ladder on what was known as the Drive Squad working my way up to assistant salesman. My big break came when T.V advertising ended for cigarettes as the Company set up a special Cigar Squad covering the country selling to all the Pubs, Working Mens Clubs, Hotels and Off-Licences. In those days cigars were seen as the smoke for the rich and it was our function to achieve complete distribution for our extended product range. We did! CIGARS were still at that time allowed TV advertising. Hard work hard drinking and a great many late nights were involved.
How did I come to join Evode? Well, I was having one of my more local calls one evening at the Red Lion Derrington selling our range of new cigars to Fred and Doris Crewe. The sale was going quite well and I got to the point where I was happy with the outcome and confident that both Fred and Doris would sell the quantities that I had suggested. An ideal situation in my thinking as this often resulted in a larger order next time.
Some will no doubt recall that a favorite watering hole of the then Sales Manager of Evode John Mowels was the Red Lion, I was acquainted with John and we had had many a chat together on our views of selling and with his experience I had without doubt learnt a great deal of the human side of the art against the so called hard sell. We had of course enjoyed the odd pint or two from time to time.
Whilst John was not the quietest of people I had no idea that he had been present during my presentation to Fred and Doris. In fact he was so quiet he refrained from asking for a pint during my selling pitch - what a gent!
Feeling quite pleased with the outcome of the sale I decided to have another pint, but John insisted he bought me one and said he would like a serious chat with me. My thoughts were that I am going to be told where I went wrong. It was far from that. John told me that he was considering starting up a new Division within Evode called the Wholesale Division also employing a team of retail lads to call on the Independent Retailers passing back orders for the Wholesalers to deliver. Although the Company had some Wholesale accounts these were few and visited no more than twice a year. Retailers were not serviced at all. The venture sounded great and a real challenge. John said that from what he had seen of my selling tonight he felt I was the type of salesman he wanted to form his new team. I asked if we could have a formal interview to safe guard all the necessary items, salary, area, conditions, pension, expenses. This of course was essential to me as I worked for an excellent Company and I was happy with them, but I also had 4 children at that time and could ill afford to take any major risks.
Our formal interview took place the following evening at 5.3Opm by 6 pm I had agreed to join Evode on a salary of 1500pa plus commission. My Area was Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Birmingham. Even to this day it gives me a great deal of pride to know that myself along with Peter Stainsby and Colin Ogden were the first members of the new sales division.
A VERY great loss was to take place to Evode some 12 months after the start of the new Division and that was the sudden death of John Mowels; a great man; a great leader; the man with vision for Evode.
Both the Wholesale Salesteam and the Retail Team worked well together building up a very strong relatioship between the two sectors of customers and each other. We all worked hard to make it a winner. Distribution was the name of the game and this was achieved. We were proud of our Company and the products that we sold. So successful were the achievements of our Division another new Division was formed under the Sales Management of Ken Davies. This Division was set up to sell the EVO-STIK range of products direct into Builders Merchants. New products were in due course developed. It was not too long before the two Divisions were amalgamated and renamed the Distribution Division. The Retail Team remained separate under the Management of Robbie. Having been with the Company for 4 years I obtained my first Management role within the Division. Our largest account at that time was a Builders Merchant U.B.M. Head Office based in Bristol. This account had branches and regional offices all over the country and became too large for one man to give the required attention for potential growth. David Williams and myself were appointed Southern and Northern Account Managers. I operated the Northern branches and regional offices, David the remainder. We both had responsibility for Bristol. Within a short period David left the Company and I took on the total UBM account. The area involved covered Penzance to Edinburgh! I received a great deal of help from Gordon Kerr and his team of salesmen due to their strong relationship with staff at all levels within this very important account. This account was built up from 3Okpa to I Million plus per annum.
My next Management position in the division was that of Southern Regional Manager. This I found quite strange as when I was vetted for this role or should I say the role of Regional Manager, and I mean vetted in as much that both Ken Davies and Phil Richards invited my wife and I out for a meal and afterwards invited themselves back to our house. They enjoyed themselves to drinks and coffee and general snacks leaving the house in the early hours of the morning. The next day I was invited into their respective offices and informed that both my wife and myself had passed the vetting process and the position of Regional Manager was offered to me covering from Manchester to Northampton with 14 salesmen reporting to me. This was ideal as Stafford was central to this and I knew the area well, I accepted. Some two weeks later at a National Sales Conference my appointment was to be announced, it was, but to my horror the Region designated to me was that of Southern and South Eastern Region starting from Northampton. For two years I commuted this from Stafford leaving home at approx. 5.30 am every day and arriving back home at approx. 8.30 pm, quite a long day. I gained experience during this period in both man management and needless to say driving skills. After two years of this role my luck changed and I took over as Midlands Regional Manager a more sensible situation for both the division and myself. One must remember that during these days the so called Retail Multiple had not come into force as such although there were some signs of their development, our strength and sales came from the Wholesalers and their customers, the independent retailer. To ensure that we kept close to the large Wholesalers throughout the country a Club was formed this was called the Profit Development Group and consisted of 42 member Wholesalers. Phil Richards was promoted from Regional Manager to Sales Development Manager to control this group and try to obtain maximum benefit from them for the Company. Changes were taking place both in the market and within Evode Phil Richards was promoted to Sales Manager of the division and I was promoted to the position of Sales Development Manager, another great challenge and a very hands on working relationship with our largest accounts within the country, from Devon to Glasgow. After a period of time it became evident that about 15 of the members were in the scheme for their own benefit and not the original mutual benefits required for its success.
One of my first tasks was to establish the good from the bad bearing in mind that they were all good customers who accounted for a large percentage of our turnover and profit, diplomacy was the name of the game. After long and at times hard negotiations I was able to reduce the Club down to 27 members knowing they were fully behind Evode in its products (current and new). Promotional activity was for the first time discussed and set up to attack any threats from competitors who had started looking at our market. Promotions were taken to the retailer via our distributors. To add a certain degree of appreciation and loyalty to these accounts/friends we arranged trips overseas for conferences ensuring that ample free time was made available for their own pleasure. They were all competitors to each other but this could not be noticed that on these trips everyone was a great success. So important were these members and the trips /conferences people within the Company who attended if not all but when possible were .Dr Simon, Mr B Liss and VEE. Phil Richards was promoted to General Sales Manager and I continued to run the PD Group also the Distribution Division for some 12 months in a caretaker role.
I left the Company at the end of this period for 3 years whilst I did keep to selling to the same customer profile I did not and would not sell against Evode. The bond between us was far to great after all I had in my own little way started and built up a new side to the Company. During my 3 years away I was a Sales and Marketing Manager UK and Export also Sales Director. I was asked by Phil Richards now Sales Director of Evode if I would be interested in returning to the Company with a view of taking over as Sales Manager. Within a short period, I said I would be interested and would be prepared to discuss the usual detail. We had our meeting along with Brian Fletcher, Marketing Director and I agreed to rejoin without any hesitation, after all I did not want to leave in the first place it was all down to .. well best sleeping dogs the saying goes!
In 3 years changes had of course taken place and it was required that I first took over the Northern Region, from there I headed up the National Account Team.
Having settled back into the workings of the Division and the changes that had taken place during my time away from the company I was promoted to National Sales Manager, Distribution Division. My aim had been achieved at last. As always when someone new takes over he or she sees the needs for changes, I was no different but I do believe that change should be gradual and not for the sake of making ones own mark. I tried to adopt the principle of changing both the attitude of the sales force without them detecting any major changes., likewise this principle was adopted for our customers. Customers do not like changes and therefore should be hidden within benefits. I believe this was achieved on both fronts over a period of some 18 months, not weeks. From National Sales Manager I was promoted to General Sales Manager. Whilst this position took me a little further away from front line contact with customers it gave me the opportunity to look at the overall business from a wider spectrum. I have always been a hands on sales person so I ensured that I worked that much harder and longer hours to keep face to face contact with the most important person in any selling operation is THE CUSTOMER.
Prior to Laporte taking over Evode I was promoted to Business Manager, I continued to use the title of GSM as I felt this was more meaningful to our customers. Laporte management must have felt that I was past my sell by date for this title of Business Manager so I lost it to a young dynamic person and I was once again able to concentrate on the customer rather than attend endless meetings. Due to ill health I left my Stafford office at approx. 3.30 pm on 2nd October 1996 not knowing then that I would not be returning to work for the Company who had given me so much job satisfaction, people friendship and for most of the years thoughtfulness with sincerity. I feel that I have had a very successful 25 years with Evode, it could have been 30. My success is not of my own making, over the years and more so during each and every stage of my Management Roles I have always had a GREAT TEAM with me both outside selling and internal back up from each and every department. I am certain that it would not be amiss of me to mention certain names.
Some of these names will I am certain bring back memories for many, they do for me. For any people not mentioned please forgive me. Special thanks to all my SOUTHERN REGION headed up by Gordon Kerr; NORTHERN REGION headed up by Alan Talbot. The above two Regions were responsible for actually writing between 70 to 75 percent of all sales obtained from the independent sector. As already stated there are many, many more but two more who I MUST MENTION who worked alongside me and put up with all my highs and lows and it was known for me to thump a desk or throw a telephone now and then.
ROBERT WHITWORTH, AND JOHN SHORT.
Jane Shaw, June Ryan, Mat. Whitehouse.
All Customer Service Girls, Joyce Hancock, IT Dept, Accounts Dept, Linda Birch, Val Jarvis, John Paul, Bill Scarlett, all Factory staff and Post Desk.
NAMES from the past:
Nancy Carr, George Corfield, Ron Johnson, John Fernyhough, Fred Cameron, Liz Lovell, John Bird, Ron Binnington, David Hill, Judith Walker, all Technical Services, Jim Hardy and Marion Daley.
Without being accused of blowing my own trumpet I feel that maybe a few facts should go on record for instance the name Building and Homecare Division was my idea on my return to the Company. Well we were selling to the building trade via merchants, we were selling to the DIY retailers independents via the distributors and we were trying to make major breakthroughs with the so called SHEDS, now known as Retail Multiple Chains. The name has remained but of course nothing is forever nor should it be.
During my time with Evode the following accounts were opened by myself and have grown to represent a very high percentage of the Divisions Sales also that of the Stafford site. Wickes, B&Q, Do It All, Focus, Homebase, Texas, Stax, Decco, Allied Manufacturing. Also Great Mills opened by Gordon, CBA Group opened by Alan Talbot. I am proud of the the team of Managers that reported to me over the years they were committed to the division in all aspects and deserve full credit. During my time the following served me well:- Gordon Kerr, Alan Talbot, Ricky Thwaites, Tom McGlade, Jim Hardy, Tony Carwardine, Mike Ellis and Fred Gardner.
Amusing incidents but not necessarily funny during my time at EVODE.