In this month’s Starrett distributor blog we chat with the Commercial Supply Manager of RS Components, Louise Thomson to learn more about this bubbly and charismatic character, the company she works for, as well as what challenges she believes lie ahead for the industry as a whole.
Louise, tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m from Corby, Northamptonshire, in the East Midlands and I’m married to my husband John. We’ve been together for 30 years this past June, which made for a very interesting anniversary during lockdown. We were meant to be jetting off to Greece with around 30 of our friends and family to celebrate the occasion, but instead invited our closest family to our home to join us in toasting the occasion with a glass (or ten) of bubbly.
I’mvery family orientated and outside of work I enjoy reading, socialising and taking care of my two cats, Pepsi and Tom, who are both from animal rescue.
Who do you work for, how long have you been with the company and what’s your job title?
I work for RS Components Limited, part of the Electrocomponents Group. I joined the company when I was 17-years old and worked there for 25 years. I’ve worked in many different divisions including sales, marketing, international export, product management, purchasing and even reception areas when I first started out. The only department I’ve never worked in isaccounts but that was probably because they didn’t want me!
It was an exciting learning curve for me to see the roles each department played, plus it helped withinteraction across functions and teams because you achieve a really good understanding of the company and where the key fits are. I learned a lot and really appreciated this experience.
After my initial 25-year stint, I left for five years asRS Components was the only company I ever worked for. I wanted to test and push myself to see if what I believed my capabilities were and experiences gained, would transfer to the outside world. During this time, I worked for a wholesaler– it was a different learning curve, but it helped to drive me forward.
I then moved back to RS Components, into a commercial role. By this stage I had changed a lot, developed new skills, and gained a new appreciation, so it was great to be welcomed back and put those new skills gained to good use.
The company has really developed so much in the whole time I’ve known it. It’s brilliant to be part of aworkplace that’s constantly evolving and developing, both in the way we interact internally and more importantly with our customers and how we go to market.
Tell us a little bit about your role in the company?
I’m the Commercial Supply Manager for suppliers across Europe, mainly in the technologies of power tool abrasives, cutting tool suppliers, and measurement and inspection suppliers. A big part of my role is managing the sourcing of products, dealing with our supply network, contracts, commercial terms and pricing. We also support all the other divisions within our company to ensure our suppliers are delivering to the standards that we expect and require.
Every day is so different, and I love that aspect of the job because you continue to learn. I’m grateful to work with such fantastic people at RS Components, as well as the suppliers and customer partnerships that we have. It keeps me engaged and offers great job satisfaction.
What aspect of the job do you enjoy the least?
All the form filling, but it’s a necessary evil. Crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s plays a major part of my role.
Is there one person dead or alive, who you would love to talk with or meet?
For me, it is a game of two halves. On a personal level I would love to be able to chat with my nan, who died three years ago and was a very big part of my life.
On the other hand, if I could invite anyone to a dinner party it would have to be Freddie Mercury. Growing up and watching him on TV, he was such a larger-than-life personality, who touched everyone in different ways in terms of a performer and artist. I think he would be a great conversationalist with all the incredible stories he would have to share.
Do you DIY yourself?
I would class myself more as the ‘designs director’, however I’m pretty nifty with a paintbrush - especially on skirting boards, as I’m closer to the ground than most people being only 4ft 11” tall.
What’s your favourite tool and why?
I’m very lucky to have a husband who’s a chippy-builder and carries out maintenance for care homes. He’s one of those people who love a busman’s holiday, so enjoys doing all the projects around home.
I have to say he’s my favourite tool – which I mean in the most complimentary way - as he can turn his hand to anything and if I put a DIY request in, he will make it happen. At home,he’s converted our garage into an office-come snug. When we initially moved in, we chose the house as a renovation project, so he’s been knocking down walls, to get the place looking just how he wants it. Last year he even finished creating our very own shed bar, complete with opticsandsports TV (obviously).
The only downside is that he never stops doing things around home and in the garden, which makes me feel lazy!
Tell us about your relationship with Starrett.
We first started taking product lines in 1983 and since then have developed our ranges. I started managing the Starrett account when I re-joined RS Components five-years ago. I’ve found it to be a very good partnership, which is strong and has grown.
The UK team have been very supportive and responsive to all our requirements and product requests. Donald Miller, our UK Account Manager is very knowledgeable, which is why we work so well together – it is just so important to have a team who are so invested in their productsand customer service.
Would you recommend Starrett to a friend or colleague?
Yes, because the product quality and supportare great.
Tell us more about the type of tools your company stock?
We stock nearly 600,000 products, so it’s really a question of what we don’t stock. We work very much industry to industry and the team I work with are part of the industrial side, such as facilities managementand safety, office-based environments, storage, cable electrical, power tools andhand tools. We also have many other technologies to support our customers, including electrical and electronic components, automation, powerand IT.
Everything that any business needs to operate effectively and for their employees to work safely is what we are about. We kit out not just the office, but the workplace, logistics and operations.We literally try to bring together everything required for our customers, to make it very easy and serviceable for them to do their job effectively. For us, it’s all about the customer experience.
We operate largely digitally, with continued commitment to improving our online service but we also have RS locals around the UK, catering for people who want to call into store and pick up items within the hour and learn more about our services. We like to offer our customers the flexibility to access what they need from us, whether that be product, support, service or technical help across all markets.
What challenges do you think lie ahead for the industry and what do you think can be done to overcome these?
Coming out of COVID-19 will take a lot longer than any of us would like and I’m sure part of that process will be about recession for businesses globally.
For us, it is about ensuring that our capabilities across all markets are in place to service customers locally, as well as globally. Earlier we touched on our digital platform, so how people access our products - if it takes longer to get back into the workplace or visit our RS outlets - it’s about how we drive the way we go to market and what we can offer our customers. It’s not just about delivering boxes, but about understanding the right solutions for our customers working styles and how their habits change moving forward. We will need to grow and adapt which we know we will achieve and have already been doing so.
For more information about RS Components, visit: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/