Simon Boulby, Ridgeons’ Product Group Manager for Building Materials, has been working at Ridgeons for 12 years. From a trainee with no industry experience, he has developed into a key member of the Ridgeons team.
Now based in the Commercial Department, he has responsibility for negotiating Ridgeons’ purchasing agreements, whilst also supporting branch managers and sales employees with pricing, product information and supplier queries. His role includes managing supplier relations and working closely with Fortis Buying Group, the National Buying Group which Ridgeons is a member of.
Here, Simon discusses his Ridgeons career so far; whilst offering his advice to those interested in pursuing a career in the builders merchant industry.
“I first applied to join Ridgeons, not because I necessarily wanted to work in a builders merchant, but because they were offering training and development for their employees. I was not very academic at school and achieved very average grades, so this was my opportunity to pursue a career, without going to university.
I spent my first two years as a trainee, working at our Saffron Walden branch. In my initial three months, I was based in the timber yard. Over the winter period, this involved prising frozen lengths of timber apart – which at the time – made university text books look appealing! However, looking back over those two years I learnt so much. I began to understand how a busy builders merchant operates; from working on the counter serving customers, to scheduling deliveries in the transport office, to goods-in in the warehouse.
At the end of the two-year training programme, I successfully applied for a role in the telephone sales office. The sales office was an eye opener for me, it was incredibly busy, and I identified the importance of efficiently processing customer orders. I learnt that the key was to stay organised, pay close attention to detail, and to keep calm under pressure.
After a couple of years, Ridgeons saw enough potential in me to offer me two further opportunities. Firstly, I applied and was accepted on to the Ridgeons Management Development Programme; and secondly, I was offered the position of Sales Office Supervisor. These two things were huge in my career development, the management programme taught me the skills I needed to become a leader, and the new role gave me the opportunity to put these skills into practice.
Two years later, I was ready for the next challenge. I successfully applied for the role of Branch Supervisor at our Thetford branch. It was very different to being in a large sales office, as well the team, I now had responsibilities for deliveries, a shop and a yard. There was a great team at Thetford, and the manager who oversaw me was brilliant. He trusted me and gave me the authority to make my own decisions, whilst offering advice and guidance when I needed it. After nine months of working for him, I was promoted to Branch Manager, which was testament to his development skills.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Branch Manager which I continued with for four years at two different branches. My highlight as a Branch Manager was when the team I was leading at our Royston branch achieved Branch of the Year in 2014.
In early 2015 I applied to join the Commercial Department as a Product Manager, which is where I am today.
Support from Ridgeons
“I have always been supported at Ridgeons, and felt encouraged to follow my ambitions. The Ridgeon family, directors, and senior management are always interested in its people; at Ridgeons you are not just a number. It’s also a business with drive, there is a clear plan, which everyone can buy into, and as the business succeeds and grows even more opportunities will present themselves for colleagues with ambition and passion for the industry.
For Ridgeons to invest in an 18-year-old with no experience for my first two years whilst I was learning, was a huge commitment with no guarantee that I would be successful, so I am very grateful and would not have been doing what I am now without this opportunity.”
Simon’s Top Tips
- Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, the experience you gain at the beginning of your career will really help you when you move up the ladder. It gives you real life experiences to relate to, rather than relying on things you have read or been told.
- Have the right attitude – push yourself and work hard. Be hungry for knowledge and ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to challenge your line manager, but do it constructively; look for ways to make improvements, look for better solutions to problems and think outside the box.
- When things feel comfortable you are ready for the next challenge. Apply for promotions, even if you feel they may be miles above your current ability. You may not get the job, but if you are at a good company they will recognise you are ambitious and will help you to gain the skills you need for when the next opportunity comes along. Plus, the interview process will help you understand which areas you need to improve on.