Founded in 1962, Arthur David Food are a fresh produce and fine ingredients distributor based in Somerset delivering food with the very best service experience. Jon Evans, joint Managing Director, John O’Brien, Finance Director, and Darren Hill, Operations Director, explain how family means more than the three generations of the ‘David’ family working in Arthur David.
"It’s about everybody understanding everybody else’s role, and the importance that every role plays in the entire process."
Growth is not always easy as Jon Evans, joint Managing Director, tells us, ‘since 2014, we’ve probably doubled in size in terms of personnel. We did have some challenging situations with staff here at that time.’ The Arthur David management team realised their values were ready for an update and they needed to make everyone aware of them. They worked with a business coach, from outside their business, to develop a fresh approach to their values and improve the recruitment and training of their people. The core values were always there, as Jon points out, ‘Arthur is all about dealing with people in the right way, dealing with people respectfully, and making sure that they are getting quality, and also going the extra mile’, how they use them has changed.
Darren believes, ‘the strongest way you can demonstrate your values is with your actions. Customers may see your tweets and posts on Facebook, but the real message is what they experience. If quality is one of your core values, you need to make sure you give them quality produce. If it is not good customer service, you will lose respect if you mess up their order. That’s why we spent a lot of time deciding what the core values were going to be, to make sure they were relevant to our customers. The only way we can keep customers is by doing what we say we are going to do, and if a chef is on the phone ranting to us, you don’t rant back, you listen and you put it right.’
Darren believes their appointment of a recruitment officer will help, ‘they have to be the right people and get the right training. We are still on an upward curve. We recognise now what we have to do, to be that employer of choice, and that it never ends. Everybody seems to be short of people so we must make sure that for the people who are coming through our door, everything is right.’ This includes their existing workforce, ‘everybody is going through our induction processes, we are treating them as if they are new employees to the business, even though they may have worked for their existing businesses for many years. We are bringing them in, giving them full training.’
John also recognises the key role the management team play, ‘we have to be approachable and everybody needs to know we are available.’ Another important aspect is, ‘to make sure everybody knows their part in the whole business, they spend time in different parts of the business as part of the broader induction. We’re trying to involve everybody in exactly what happens from produce coming in and going around the business, to where it ends. We want them to understand the role of customer excellence and accounts, and how important it is to all come together, no longer just saying, “here are your keys, get on with it.’’
"You can do the accounts, and put them aside as that year is over. For your core values you have to be on it all the time. You can’t let it slip."
Their proactive approach to customer service has had unforeseen benefits, as John explains, ‘we implemented home working to achieve customer excellence. If we can’t get staff here from 6pm to 12pm to take orders they can take them at home and put the orders through at home. It has been very successful, and we are probably going to need more and more of that, especially if the labour market gets more difficult. That will definitely expand as we get more and more busy because we physically can’t fit any more people here, we’ve run out of space.’
There are lots of families working in Arthur David, including the next generation, and Jon clearly values their contribution, ‘their attitude is ‘we should modernise this a bit.’ The great thing about Arthur David is that nobody wants to stop them doing that. We say, ‘let’s see if we can make it easier, if we can make it better for the customer, better for staff, and then let’s do it.’ Nobody wants to stick to the old traditional ways, apart from making sure the customer comes first. That’s still the key thing.’
In a challenging job market, Arthur David have recognised the value of their family values and are using them to recruit and retain the right people to help their business flourish.