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Keeping up with oil prices keeps Andrew on his toes

31 August, 2011
Lawrences Garages' managing director, Andrew Lawrence, starts and ends his day the same way - checking price data
Page 50 

The start of the day seems to come earlier and earlier! The Today programme brings me to at 6am in readiness for the first tasks of the day. That is taking my three black Labradors for a morning walk in all weather which certainly wakes me up! My wife, Julie, has their food ready and she prepares tonight's dinner, before she disappears off to Norwich City College at 7.30am.

First stop, after a light breakfast, is the office which is an outbuilding to the house, so the days of sitting in a traffic jam are long gone. Emails checked, bank statements downloaded and checked, then the fuel pricing exercise takes place. I field office calls until the staff arrive and then I am able to isolate myself for the pricing exercise. This is an onerous everyday job, which is so vital now, particularly with the widely varying daily prices.

Comparing stated oil prices from our oil company against quoted Big Oil usually sends my blood pressure running up a few notches but regrettably it's an important task each day. Once completed, calls are made to each site to review pricing, tankers due and any other problems that are always prevalent in the everyday running of sites.

I then put calls into my brother Simon (below, right) and son Ben (left), to see what their schedules are. It is always good to have these calls for sharing problems, getting their views on matters and keeping my feet on the ground.

Dependent on the time of the week, I usually get out to the sites. These sites are spread fairly widely from Harleston in the south to the north Norfolk coast at Sheringham. All sites have their own managers who run them within the parameters that we set. But, at the same time, they are very much their own bosses and are expected to run the sites as if they were their own enterprise. This, we feel, gives them a better understanding of the business. We are very lucky as our managers have proved themselves to be efficient and productive and loyal as all of them have been with us since we took the sites over during the '90s.

Being on site usually involves drinking copious cups of tea as I go through the usual discussions on sales both for the shop and particularly the fuel as I feel this side is still the entrée to our offer.

Fuel margin is 'king' but in today's marketplace we are very aware of the tipping point between achieving margin versus a permanent loss of volume, which basically could be the death knell of the site. I try and spend some time with the shop staff and cashiers as generally you get more of a lowdown from them about what is going on with the site.

I arrive back at the office, bringing paperwork and bumph with me. I then have a general review with the office manager, Sarah Baker, who has been with us since we moved up here in 1995.

Once the office closes it is back on the trail exercising the dogs before returning to the kitchen and retrieving the meal. Sometimes Simon and Ben stay over so this a good chance to go over matters of concern or opportunities.

Final task is to check Big Oil at around 9.30pm, and to prepare any change of pricing in the morning.


ANDREW LAWRENCE

Name: Andrew Lawrence

Company: Lawrences Garages

Job title: Managing director

Career history: Joined City Petroleum (ShellMex BP) in April 1974. Stayed until May 1975 and then went into Lawrences

Greatest achievement: Overseeing the transition of a group of licensed sites to a dealer operation

Tips for business success: Operate within the parameters you set

Most likely to say: "Do you need all that stock?"

Least likely to say: "Fill the tanks"

Other Interests: Rugby, rowing, rotary, and walking the dogs!