Ella Heeks tells the story of how, as Managing Director of Abel & Cole, she recruited the key managers for the buying department. Initially she turned to those experienced in buying groceries, generally people from the big supermarkets. This is a tough business, with companies like Tesco and Asda working to cut prices paid to suppliers at every turn.

Her first two buyers, Dave and Mike, were experienced and driven and appeared to be doing a great job… until they abruptly left, taking some key suppliers with them, to set up a rival organic box delivery company.

Then she employed Steve, who came with an impressive record of years negotiating for Tesco. She realised something was wrong when, working late one night, she overheard angry shouting coming from another office. Ella found Steve bellowing down the phone at one of their key suppliers, over what turned out to be a relatively minor matter.

‘I’m sorry. I can’t do it,’ confessed Steve. ‘I can’t get out of the way of working of over a decade in the business.’ He decided to leave.

Finally Ella turned to Julie. Julie had not been recruited as a buyer, and had no experience in that area. In fact Ella had never been absolutely clear what job she had recruited Julie to. But her values and commitment fitted so well with the Abel & Cole approach that she went ahead and took her on.

So Julie was a little surprised when Ella asked if she wanted to take over the buying department. She had a lot to learn (and, fortunately, Steve stayed around for a little and taught her some of the tricks of the trade). But, as Ella had realised, she embodied the values of Abel & Cole, and that ensured she was a success.

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