🏡 City: Cardiff ➡️ Manchester ➡️ Uppsala ➡️ Manchester
💼 Job title: Area Manager - North & Midlands, UK
🎓 Studies: Economics at University of Manchester, and Economics & Business at Universitat Uppsala
🔮 Languages: English 🇬🇧 (and a little Welsh! 🏴)
👣 How do you commute to work? Train or bicycle
✈️ Travel dreams: Sri Lanka, for the food, beaches and cricket
🎬 Favorite film: Jurassic Park—the original, obviously!
📌 What does your job consist of and how has your scope of work changed since you joined Stuart?
When I joined Stuart there were just 30 people working in the UK and I was one of only a handful of people based regionally to support expansion into new cities. I came from one of the large, traditional logistics companies so the start-up culture, emphasis on growth and promotion of independent thinking was liberating to be part of. It was an exciting time in the company's growth journey and being in a team responsible for launching new cities on almost a weekly occurrence was a real thrill.
The work was typically varied, fast-paced and only a little chaotic! I’m someone who thrives in that environment and I particularly enjoyed the autonomy to make decisions and think on my feet. It was also great to be close to the local rider community, which is still an area I’m very passionate about at Stuart.
In the three years since I joined the company, my role has changed a lot. My working day is much more stable now. For example, I’m less likely to be found stranded in a car park of a randomly selected UK town…. and more likely to be poring over a spreadsheet! As Area Manager I’m now very focused on how we can provide a smooth and reliable day-to-day service to our clients. This means planning and preparing for demand and growth whilst ultimately ensuring there are courier partners in place in every location and at every time of day to deliver the volume. It’s a constant learning process and we rarely get it absolutely right, so it’s all about being able to make continual incremental improvements in our operation. It’s also vital that we collaborate strongly with the wider Stuart eco-system both within the UK and beyond to make the most of other teams’ expertise and work as a team.
📌 What do you like most about your role as an Area Manager?
My team has grown a lot since I joined and one of the really enjoyable parts of my job is people development. I’m very much a people person and nothing is more fulfilling for me than supporting the team to grow both professionally and personally throughout their time in the company.
I also still really enjoy the cut and thrust of the operation during peak periods. I’ve been working in the logistics industry now for 10 years so I’m very used to the craziness that happens around the Black Friday / Christmas period. But after all these years, I still really get a buzz when we smash our volume targets whilst delivering another amazing peak period for clients and customers who rely on our services.
📌 What’s it like remotely managing a team across multiple cities?
It can be tough at times, but also provides its opportunities! My team is located across three UK cities: Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle, and I’m permanently based in Manchester. This means that as a team we need to all be experts in communication.
We have also learned to be creative in the approaches we use to stay in touch and during Covid we were probably better prepared than most for the dramatic change in working habits. I find that relying too much on one channel such as video calls can quickly lead to fatigue. A blend of different methods helps avoid this: video call, Slack, email, in-person meetings and even the humble phone call all have their place! I also try to add a fun or social dynamic into team meetings and 1-to-1 chats whenever possible—I think team spirit and togetherness is incredibly important so it’s all about how we can maintain that, despite the obvious distance caused by remote working. I’m also keen to experiment more with new methods. As remote working becomes more commonplace, it will be interesting to see how the technology evolves to keep pace.
However, there are clearly some things always best done in person. For example, as a cross-regional team it’s important that we travel to understand the differing ops and commercial landscape in each location. Also, team social events are simply not the same behind a screen!
📌 What is your best memory at Stuart so far?
This is a tough one! For me, there are two very memorable projects that stand out.
The first was in 2019. We experienced real breakneck growth in 2018, launching 19 cities in the calendar year. However, in 2019 as a team we refocused on financial and operational consolidation. With a laser focus on efficiency and cost, we were able to reach an amazing milestone of profitability in each of our cities by the end of 2019. Other similar scaleup businesses take several years to achieve this, so it was incredible to reach this milestone in just over 12 months.
The second achievement was in 2020, where the team rallied around new opportunities provided by changing customer habits in the grocery vertical. We worked extremely hard to roll out a remarkable number of new stores for clients such as Coop and Sainsbury’s as fast as possible whilst at the same time developing the tools needed to deliver world-class operational performance for these clients. The overall impact was a massive increase in volume whilst maintaining excellent and consistent performance.
📌 What's your magic trick to achieve a balance between your career and personal life?
For me, the key is the ability to work hard when at work, but then switch off outside of working hours. I like to make sure I have something to look forward to on weekends and evenings to totally switch off.
I think it’s very simple in today’s world to always feel the need to be always in touch with some notification or other on the many many devices we own—and it can easily lead to a feeling of fatigue. I try to spend my time away from work outdoors and this helps me to switch off. I’ve become a keen gardener in recent years and I’m frequently found pottering around in my vegetable patch or tending to herbaceous borders!
If not in my garden, I’m likely to be doing something outdoorsy. I love walking and mountain climbing in the nearby Peak District and Lake District National Parks and love to go surfing in Wales or further afield. Nothing gives me a feeling of relaxation more than being away in the wilderness for a couple of days and away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
📌 What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?
There are so many! I would say board games are my ultimate nerdy pursuit. I’m a big fan of Catan (including the many expansion packs). Basically, the nerdier the game the better!
📌 What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
People who know me will agree that I have more than a passing fondness for Diet Coke! Four cans a day is fine, right?
📌 What would your dream trip be?
I’d love to travel across Russia. It’s a bit of an enigma, somewhere that I imagine feels both very foreign but also familiar. I love history and Russia has maybe the most fascinating and turbulent history of any nation. It would also be amazing to check out the Siberian wilderness, particularly Lake Baikal.
Interested in joining the Stuart team? We’re hiring! Check out our open positions.