Independent Rav Garcha is touring the country in search of inspirational store owners

When the ACS asked me to visit some of the country’s leading independent retailers and make a video of my travels to be shown at this year’s Summit, I jumped at the chance.

Of course, I have met successful retailers such as Guy Warner, Kishor Patel and Patrick Sewell before, and knew of their achievements through the trade press, but I was intrigued by the opportunity of meeting them in their own environment.

My store visits are being structured around the four key Summit themes of technology, community, sustainability and people, with each retailer a champion of one of the four elements. But in reality every good retailer is strong in all four areas - you can’t afford not to be.

I own four shops, so was interested to meet retailers who were in my peer group and have expanded from one outlet to own a number of stores to see if they do anything differently to me.

The Sewell Group has achieved the amazing accolade of being number seven in The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list. Just by watching the store staff in action you could see that they all knew each other and respected each other. It wasn’t a case of a boss and their staff, everyone behaved like colleagues - equals, in fact - and I asked how this could be achieved in other stores.

According to Patrick, the answer is simple: you have to get everybody on the bus. By this he means that as long as you have the right people on board, then everything will travel in the right direction, so you have to get the right people in to start with.

If you do the interviews it’s down to you to get the right people, not just filling the position with the first applicant.

The second key lesson is keep communicating with staff, so that you know where they come from and where they want to go. It was great to meet one of the store managers who had started on the shop floor, then become a supervisor before working their way up to manager entirely organically. Patrick summed it up very humbly when he said that it wasn’t set up this way in order to win awards, this is just what we do.

● There’ll be more of Rav’s experiences in future issues of Convenience Store, and you can get a seat for the screening of Rav’s Road Trip video by attending this year’s ACS Summit, part of the National Convenience Show, at the NEC Birmingham on March 27.