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Derek Nolan, Senior Director, Retail Operations, Circle K Ireland: Interview

Donna Ahern talks to Derek Nolan, senior director of retail operations for dealer and franchise Circle K Ireland.

How would you describe your role?

I lead the sales and operations team at Circle K Ireland. In this role, I have the privilege of partnering with 243 dealer/franchise partner sites across Ireland. Setting long-term strategic plans and day-to-day customer meetings with my team are core elements of my role.

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

My first job involved sweeping floors and stocking shelves at Quinnsworth – now Tesco.

This is where I developed an interest in retail and learned the importance of leading a team and motivating them towards the achievement of a collective goal, rather than just managing them.

I went from sweeping floors to becoming store manager of the then Tesco flagship store, and I moved up the ladder to become head of the Tesco support office.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

The pride that I experience when my team re-sign any of our current retailers to continue their partnership with Circle K. I also enjoy it when the team brings new dealer partners to our business.

Our industry and company are currently in a very exciting period, with so many changes. I am delighted to be part of this generational change, as we transition from fossil fuel products to electric vehicles over the next few years, and support our partners on this journey.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I believe in doing my best on a daily basis, and this will lead me to my next goal. We all have aspirations, and I am no different, but it is important not to lose sight of today.

What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?

Take every opportunity to balance practical, on-the-job experience with building your business expertise.

Try and take some learnings from each of your managers as you start and progress through your career – good or bad – as this will further enable you to lead your own team in the future and guide your business capabilities.

What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?

When I was ten, I ventured into the field of crop-picking, picking strawberries as a summer job. Let’s just say my strawberries didn’t make it into a lot of jam jars!

What do you think the government could do to help business in the current climate?

Two key areas where businesses have come under pressure are the labour market and insurance premiums.

The business community needs further support and certainty to help it navigate through these operational and financial challenges.

What two business people do you most admire, and why?

  1. P. McManus – he is humble, successful, and proves you can be very successful by leading your people with real values.

I also have to call out Elon Musk.

He is so focused and determined to break the norm in terms of product and technical development. He has also had many failures, but he continues to move forward with bold ideas.

What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up?

I was a child of the 1980s, so Cadbury springs to mind. What child didn’t like the sight of that bar of chocolate with a ‘pint and a half’ of milk in every bar?

Who would come to your ideal dinner party – living or dead?

I love American politics and history, but I also love watching Liverpool FC, so I would have Barack Obama on one end and Kenny Dalglish on the other. It would be interesting to see Kenny contradict Obama on the term ‘football’, not ‘soccer’.

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received?

You are only as good as your last visit. This means that you should never be complacent when you are in a strong performance position. Always look to achieve continuous self- and team improvement.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I walk and jog. My marathon-running days are behind me, but I love to exercise and get out and about, with music playing.

How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?

I don’t use most of the social-media platforms. The only one I use is LinkedIn.

It has morphed more and more into a personal-story platform, which is not its core purpose.

However, I still find it a good platform for networking and finding out about innovation across different business sectors.

Most likely to say ...?

Show me the ‘as is’ moving to the ‘to be’. Anyone that has worked with me will know that it is a phrase I use frequently.

Least likely to say ...?

I love Manchester United.

© 2022 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Donna Ahern. For more retail news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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