Name: BOB BUCK
Company: FWP MATTHEWS
Job title: TECHNICAL SALES MANAGER
I’m naturally an early riser. I got into the habit as a 17-year-old school leaver when I first joined the baking industry. At 6am the alarm goes off, but I’m usually up already. I catch up on the news, have my first nicotine hit of the day and make sure I know the traffic news, as I’m out on the road pretty much all day.
Breakfast is a strong coffee and scrambled eggs with a hand-baked baguette. The bread is the healthiest part of my morning!
I’m in the car and starting the first journey of the day from my home in Bedford with my new best friend, the Road Angel, which is a satellite navigation system that also tells me when I’m near a speed camera.
Mid-mornings are always the best time to visit bakeries due to bakers’ early morning schedules. I cover the whole range of customers, from small retail bakers to large manufacturers, and I aim to have at least five appointments a day. Sometimes I’ll drive past a baker I’ve never come across, pull over, drop in a card and a brochure and get talking.
I was in Newcastle earlier this week and opened a new account that way with someone interested in our imported French flours. It’s funny, but I’ve never had a situation where someone has said “not interested” – not once. In my experience bakers will usually give you time and, if they can’t, they’re happy to make a future appointment.
I’m visiting Earl’s Court Olympia in London for the Organic Products Europe exhibition, which is held every year, and where we are exhibiting our flours. Around 60% of our business is organic, so the show gives us a good opportunity to make new contacts with manufacturers that are interested in moving into organic production.
I get a wonderful lead from one visitor – a muffins and cakes manufacturer, which supplies the multiples, based in London. He is looking for an organic muffin mix – something that is, as far I know, not yet available on the market.
We are seeing demand for organic flours grow and there are definitely untapped niches in organic morning goods, cakes and muffins. I arrange a meeting again to discuss how to
take this forwards, and start thinking about sourcing organic ingredients suppliers to develop the idea.
After my visits, I have lunch. Mostly I am lucky to be able to taste the bakeries’ wares; otherwise I have to get my wallet out! Like most people, I watched the calories after Christmas, but this was not helped by having to sample the wonderful products in the bakeries I visit. I have a soft spot for croissants, made with flour from French miller Moul-bie, which we supply. Moul-bie’s speciality French flours produce breads and pastries that even a Frenchman would die for!
My afternoons pretty much follow the same pattern each day, unless I’m in our Cotswold office in Chipping Norton. Normally, I pop into the office once a week, although I’ve got my laptop up and running now – yeehah, at last! So it’s likely to be once or twice a month from now on.
As bakers tend to work nights and early mornings, I spend afternoons making appointments for the following weeks. I also drop in to see potential customers or visit existing ones to see how they’re getting on. I’m fortunate as I’m an experienced baker myself, so I can help with any technical questions.
I make a few calls to remind customers of the range of conventional, organic, French and Danish flours that FWP Matthews supplies. I like to be able to deliver the odd bag of flour, if a customer has a special requirement, and the afternoons are the best time to drop anything off.
This is a good time to spot any retail opportunities for pre-packed flour. In the spring, we launched a new 7.5kg pack size for our Cotswold flours for breadmakers, so I need to make sure all customers know about this.
While driving between customers, I’m reminded of the people back in the office. They tease me about my car and my Nigel Mansell tendencies (hence the Road Angel). My car has lots of fancy extras, including Bluetooth, but I must admit to being a bit of a technophobe. Now I’m used to it, the laptop is great and I keep all my contacts as well their notes on it. I’m even getting into sending emails!
Towards the end of the afternoon I have time to discuss other opportunities, such as
bakery demonstration days and any free technical visits required to bakeries from the Moul-bie team of expert bakers.
The French side of our business is on the up. It offers something different to the independent baker and something to fight back with on the high street. People go to France, they sample the authentic breads from a boulangerie, and they’re delighted if they can find those breads in a British bakery when they come back home. It’s something the supermarkets don’t do and speciality French breads offer good margins too.
After a busy day, I get back home to Bedford, update the database and reply to my emails. As it’s a family-run business, Paul and Graham Matthews like to have a daily report to keep them up to date on everything I’ve done that day. I also use this time to research new areas and customers, for which I’m a fan of Google and Yell.
As well as baking, I enjoy all aspects of cookery and often entertain in the evenings. I’m a flight simulator addict and can spend a few hours on the computer recreating my childhood fantasy of being a pilot. Although I love the food industry, flying is a passion of mine and, on the longer summer evenings, I book flying lessons. I have busy days but I’m also going to squeeze in some extra gym sessions as the nature of my job means I’m sitting (and eating) for a lot of the day.
After catching up with friends and family, I turn in, ready for another early start.