Four C-Store Champions discuss how they divide up their working day and ensure a work/life balance. Sarah Britton reports

Tony Scott
Scott’s Budgens, Bampton, Oxon
Tony has worked in the retail industry since he was a bell boy at Stockport market aged 11. Over the course of his working life, he has owned both Spar and Londis stores, and he now has two Budgens stores in Bampton and Burford, Oxfordshire.

Mandeep Singh
Singh’s Premier, Sheffield
Mandeep runs the Singh’s family business with brothers Vrinder and Baljeet. They know that convenience retailers belong at the heart of the community and they spend plenty of time chatting to customers and working with local groups.

Paul Cheema
Malcolms Stores, Coventry
Paul has been working in retail for 26 years and is well aware of the importance of engaging with and supporting the local community. He recently won the Association of Convenience Stores’ Community Hero Award for 2011.

Saqib Ghafoor
Nisa 8 til 10, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear
Busy retailer Saqib understands that investing in your business is crucial, even in the current tough economic climate, and he has recently acquired a second store, which is due to open next month.

What advice would you give other retailers who want to improve their time management? Tony: Essentially, you need to train and involve your staff fully. Empower them so that it doesn’t fall just to you to keep the shop running. 

Mandeep: You’ve got to achieve a fine balance between work, family and friends. A lot of retailers forget about that and before they know it they’re bald and old! You’ve got to enjoy your money, as well as earn it I always like to have a nice car. 

Paul: You really need to look at what you are doing and see if you can do it more efficiently. 

Saqib: Make sure you take time out for your holidays and dedicate time out of the store to go to trade shows, where you can pick up valuable ideas. How many hours do you work a week?

: On average I work about 70 hours a week from 7am to 6.30pm, six days a week. I spend nearly all my time at my Bampton store.

Mandeep: I work 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

Paul: I work 78 hours a week on average.

Saqib: I get up at 6.30 and work in the store until 10pm. We’re opening another store in six weeks so there’s a lot to sort out, and I’m often up until 2am trying to keep up with everything.

Are you happy working these hours?

: I’m in the process of trying to reduce my hours. I’m not 35 anymore I don’t want to die prematurely! I’d like to work five days a week, starting at 7am and knocking off at 1pm. I want to spend more time at the Burford store and actually manage my business as a whole, rather than spend all my time managing one shop.

Mandeep: I have already reduced my hours a lot at one stage I was doing 16 hours a day, which meant the only time I was getting to see my kids was when they were asleep. I’d like to cut down my hours further an eight-hour day would be perfect.

Paul: In an ideal world, it would be nice to spend more time with my family. But my brother, Pinda, and I are still in our prime at the moment, so we don’t mind doing that many hours.

Saqib: I’m hoping to get my hours down to between 60 and 70 a week once the new store is up and running.

What are you doing to reduce your hours?

: I already have a manager running Burford and I have just taken on a manager at Bampton. Once he has a good handle on things, I’ll be able to reduce the time I spend in the store.

Mandeep: It’s not that easy to reduce your hours when you’re not around to keep an eye on things standards slip, or jobs just don’t get done. But we’ve just taken on some more staff so that will help ease the pressure a bit.

Paul: We’re making sure our staff are fully trained so that they can run the store without us. We’ve also got a good epos system in place, which saves time monitoring shrinkage.

Saqib: Once the new store opens then my work hours will go down to 70 hours a week. I like to be busy I’ve always put in long hours at work and I get bored if I spend too long at home.

How much time do you spend in the back office?

: I spend about 50% of my time in the back office. I have a bookkeeper, so I’m not doing paperwork; I’m doing promotions and pricing and adding new lines.

Mandeep: We’ve got staff to run the back office so I don’t spend my time there.

Paul: I spend about 60% of my time running the back office, working on category management and range reviews.

Saqib: Two-thirds of my time is spent in the back office ordering, updating the epos system, and doing paperwork.

How much time do you spend on the shop floor?

: I spend 50% of my time on the shop floor, but most of that is spent putting in orders, as opposed to walking the shop floor, or talking to customers.

Mandeep: Some 90% of my time is spent on the shop floor. I believe having that personal link with customers is one of the key reasons that our business is doing well.

Paul: I spend 20% of my time on the shop floor looking at fixtures and talking to customers. Pinda handles most of the front end of the business.

Saqib: I spend a third of my time on the shop floor, taking deliveries, putting in orders and meeting sales reps.

What outside commitments do you dedicate time to?

Tony: I have very little time out of the shop. I’ve cut myself off from the ACS and from events, and working in the shop has become my number-one priority.

Mandeep: About 10% of my time is spent out and about on retailer panels, or in meetings with the Premier Development Group.

Paul: I spend 20% of my time outside of the shop, visiting other stores, attending networking events and overseeing our property business.

Saqib: I probably spend 10 hours a week outside of the store at trade meetings and shows.

How do you ensure a work/life balance?

: I make sure I still go on holiday I’ve just come back from two weeks in Antigua. Once I’m away, I’ll switch my phone off and won’t think about work.

Mandeep: Although I work seven days a week, I regularly attend clubs outside of work. I go to a football club on Wednesdays and take my son, Tavan, to play football for Sheffield Wednesday’s under-sevens team.

Paul: We take one day off every fortnight. It’s crucial to get that time away from the store to spend quality time with family.

Saqib: I don’t have any fixed days off, although I do take two holidays a year. When we go abroad for the Nisa Conference, I’ll take an extra week’s holiday, and I’ll have a fortnight’s holiday with the family.

What do you do to relax?

: I like fast cars and my partner and I go driving in the countryside on our days off.

Mandeep: As well as football, I go to the gym with my brothers. I find it quite relaxing, mentally.

Paul: I enjoy gardening it gets my mind off the store.

Saqib: I don’t have much spare time, but if the weather’s good then I’ll head out on my motorbike with friends.