I joined in September 2008 as a Supervisor into our High Street store in Hemel Hempstead after seeing a poster in the window! I remember being interviewed on the Saturday and finding out on the same day I had got the job and was starting on Monday! My first day was welcoming and the team were really engaging with me. I was thrown straight into Christmas set up (which meant very little to me at the time!) In my first week there was an unannounced visit from our CEO – Kate Swann and our Stores Director Kevin Hall – this made me very nervous on the day, however they were very engaging, took the time to speak with me and found out how my first week was going and what I thought of the business etc. This was insane for me as I had never experienced anyone at that senior level in my previous employers.
After 3 months I was promoted to Assistant Manager and put onto our MDP training programme which I was signed off and passed 6 months later! After 1 year I was promoted to Store Manager of Rickmansworth where I took on about a team of eight, time was flying by, it was a well ran store already but I was tasked within implementing new processes and this resulted in my store being one of the top performers on the region! My RBM at the time was extremely supportive and with the location of the store I experienced a lot of unannounced visits from our Stores Director, however I managed to build my profile through this period. After a year I applied for the SM vacancy at our Henley store however, I was unsuccessful but in recognition of my desire to progress I was offered to run Marlow store which was bigger and had a team of approx 20 people so would be a great development step for me. I ran Marlowe for about 18 months and through this went through a store refresh programme which opened my eyes to the wider business and supported my development of dealing with contractors and 3rd party suppliers. My highlight in this store was the ‘Christmas Market’ we all dressed up, opened the store later and made the store a ‘fun’ place to come into for customers. I had engaged with the local council to raise our awareness amongst the community.
I was then offered a big step into managing Staines Stores. It was a Grade 5, over two floors and looking back it was quite daunting taking it on, however thanks to the support from my RBM and the business, this proved to be a real highlight of my career. When I took over it had not had a manager for about six months so needed a bit of TLC and realignment. I was targeted to get the store back on track and managed to do so within eight months and achieved our shrink target. It was here that I trained up a member of staff who is now our Deputy Manager for Heathrow T2 (one of our biggest businesses!) and this makes me feel proud that I was part of her development.
On recognition of my achievements with Staines store our Stores Director approached me and asked if I would move to our Slough store – now this was a struggling store, which needed a turnaround project, however was very high profile due to its location – a regional office, a regularly visited store not only by our senior management teams but also our suppliers to ensure compliance across their product ranges! It took me a while to make a decision but I decided it would either make or break my career and I was eager to progress – I got stuck straight in! This was a tense environment and I certainly faced challenges I had never before, we experienced a lot of trials, a huge shrink problem, a store refresh, having to re-engage, motivate and develop the team and local community. In my second year, we had ‘smashed’ the shrink target which was a first for that store – so this is still a highlight that stands out to me.
I then began getting more intrigued about the Travel business and decided to apply for the Deputy Manager vacancy for our brand new, prestigious Heathrow T2 vacancy and thankfully secured it. The business supported my transition to Travel with a gradual move, I gained a lot of exposure to project management as T2 wasn’t even open so was involved in the store opening in June that year – this was huge, T2 was being opened by the Queen and WHSmith was one of the main retailers in the terminal, it was all a brilliant success and the store looked amazing! Shortly after opening we merged the management of T1, 2 and 3 as there was a re-structure on the region. This gave me the opportunity to step up as Terminal Manager for T3 in the September for an interim period and based on recognition of my success in June of the following year I was appointed permanently into the role. The following year I was awarded with ‘Store Manager’ of the year which is the biggest achievement and highlight in my career.
Working in a large airport has enabled me to gain exposure to Head Office as well as senior management, I never dreamed in a million years that joining as a supervisor all those years ago would get me where I am today, managing one of our biggest businesses in the UK. I got here through my determination but also through the support and development from WHSmith.
Martin Dumbarton – Terminal Manager – T3 Heathrow