Julie Tidy, Depot General Manager for the Birmingham Bidvest Foodservice depot, recently won the Gold Medal at the FWD Awards for the ‘Delivered Depot Manager’ category against two other finalists. Julie spoke to Wholesale Manager about what it takes to be an outstanding female manager working in a tough environment, leading from the front and managing her multi-disciplinary team to the highest of standards.
Julie’s first job in wholesaling was in the early 90’s. She was a Recruitment Branch Manager for an agency who handled recruitment for the then Booker Fitch Food Services.
Julie has effectively worked at the Birmingham depot for her entire wholesale career, and has progressed up the ranks from Branch Manager to Business Development Manager, Field Sales Manager, Regional Sales Controller, Business Development Controller, and now General Manager.
As Julie puts it, “This business really encourages career progression and the opportunities are there for those who want them. As a business, Bidvest Foodservice believes passionately in its staff, and really invests in training and development. For me, this has meant Facilitator and Assessor training through our ‘First For Service’ Programme, Internal Sales Development Coaching: Train the Trainer, as well as various other sales and management courses. All these things have really developed my skill set and helped me progress to where I am today.”
As General Manager, Julie Tidy has developed Bidvest Foodservice’s Birmingham depot to become the single most profitable depot in Bidvest Foodservice’s estate of 24 depots, rocketing from sixth to first place over the last five years. Since opening under Julie’s management, it has more than doubled in turnover and now generates in excess of a nine-figure turnover. The depot has embraced new product groups, including fresh meat, wines, beers and spirits and nonfood ranges.
In bringing about these changes, Julie has successfully challenged conventional thinking to instigate innovative ways to improve productivity and manage costs.
Efficiencies within the site have seen the return of profit per square foot increase by over 70% in the last five years. Under Julie’s management Birmingham has maximised the benefits of new technology, enabling the depot to enjoy the lowest labour cost per item delivered within Bidvest Foodservice.
Birmingham has been ranked first or second in the top performing depots in respect of promotional sales of branded partners’ products via Bidvest’s Safari mechanic for the past three consecutive years. The Birmingham depot also scores highly within the annual Independent Managed Customer Survey and has ranked in the top three within the company for three consecutive years.
Bidvest’s Birmingham depot delivers an exceptionally high level of customer service. For example, it invites over 100 customers to its annual open day. A marquee is pitched in the grounds of the depot and customers are given tours to demonstrate the quality and standards of the facilities serving their business.
When she’s not working, Julie puts her heart into the local community. She recently did a parachute jump to raise money for a local charity. She also encourages her team to support the company’s chosen charity, Hospitality Action. A recent local customer event organised by her team raised £1,000 for a local youth who is suffering from a rare type of blood cancer.
Julie manages to combine success at work with dedication to a number of charity activities. So where does she get her energy? “It must be in the genes,” she laughs. “My father is still going strong at ninety three and my mother is eighty six!”
Other inspirations in Julie’s life include her first boss in wholesaling, Graham Pritchard, who worked for Booker PLC, which later became Booker Fitch Food Services, and the person she looks up to most in the industry, Norman Wemyss, Chief Operating Officer at Bidvest Foodservice: “Norman has worked in the business for as long as I have, and also started his career as a Business Manager. My respect for him is on many levels, but most of all it’s for the knowledge he has gained through “carrying the bag” and balancing his position in a top level role whilst keeping it real with employees, coupled with invaluable insight about what our customers really want.
Norman really is an exceptional role model, and he’s living proof that with motivation and determination you can achieve great things, no matter where you start. I think the industry needs personalities, and Norman has that in buckets loads.”
When she was younger, Julie says, “my ambition was to work as a Cookery Demonstrator for the Gas Board, so the food industry was somewhere in my subconscious. I think I would have always been linked to sales in some guise or another, but in all honesty I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Julie is clear about the changes she has seen over her career and also about certain values that have remained constant: “The numbers of women in senior positions in the wholesale industry are growing. Within Bidvest Foodservice, three women hold senior board positions, and working closely with suppliers I probably see as many women as I do men.”
“Obviously technology has changed the face of wholesale, and our customers both internal and external are as informed as my colleagues and I, so the approach is always to add value and exceed customers’ expectations.
“The range of products available has also increased, and we now offer multi temperature products and deliveries. But the basic premise – the right goods at the right time at the right price – still holds good.
“It’s also still true that people are at the heart of business, so as an employee it’s important to value and develop your staff.
Treat people as you would want to be treated yourself and have some fun along the way.”