Bruce, Customer Director, Nestlé UK
I am currently the Customer Director for Sainsbury's, Waitrose and M&S, responsible for all Nestlé sales through these customers. My team is spread across several locations and comprises not only Account Managers but also Supply Chain, Finance and Marketing Managers.
Our role is to work closely with these customers to ensure we develop plans they want to support. I visit a customer about twice a week on average although I speak to them almost daily; the remainder of my time is spent with my team in the office. I travel to York every other week to spend time with my confectionery team who are based there, along with other important internal contacts, so a big part of my job is relationship-building.
Working in a sales environment is highly varied and there are constant challenges. You can try and plan a day in the office but often that changes as soon as you arrive due to a phone call from the customer. Personally, I love the unpredictability and problem-solving nature of the role - it can be extremely challenging and pressured but that makes it all the more satisfying when you achieve the big successes.
I started out my career with United Biscuits and then transferred to Nestlé in 1997. I love food so staying in the industry was not a tough decision, but in joining Nestlé I felt that the career opportunities would be that much greater. I moved numerous times in quick succession while gaining breadth of experience and increased responsibility throughout.
The most significant career opportunity happened in 2003 when I was offered the role of Sales Director in New Zealand. Needless to say it didn't take me long to make the decision and I spent 3 fantastic years (personally and professionally) developing the Nestlé Business on the other side of the world. At 33, it was a huge responsibility; I had a team of 140 and a long list of big business challenges. But, as always with Nestlé, I had great support from my Line Manager and peers and I learnt a lot (and quickly), and this has proved invaluable in my more recent roles.
I returned to the UK in 2006 to lead a massive commercial restructuring project which provided me with a completely different set of cultural and commercial challenges. The new business structure and model went live in 2008 and I am now a senior member of that team. So, as project lead and internal consultant I am now living through the recommendations that I took to the Board - and I'm delighted to say that Nestlé UK has just enjoyed one of the best years on record.
The culture at Nestlé is great - not only do we talk about people being a key asset but we also act on it. If you are ambitious and work hard, the opportunities will come. I think I'm definitely proof of that!