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Chris Yates

“My journey started at Sainsbury’s, I joined as a management trainee and worked for around ten years in the stores, they then sponsored me to go on and do an MBA which gave me a different direction and allowed me to learn a lot more about how a large organisation works. I did functional roles in HR, supply chain and commercial; the latter role that I then did after about twenty years with them was to run the stores in London. I was looking after forty to fifty stores, seven to eight thousand people with a half a billion turnover – I was just a small cog in a very big wheel; I enjoyed it, it was great!

I was in my late forties and didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life, then an opportunity came up for a more strategic and operational role, as a director with a company called Esporta health Clubs – I became the operations director. I thought it was great after having a twenty odd year career at Sainsbury’s and I suddenly realised I had a key skill for turning things around, quickly. It was a business that wanted to be sold, private equity backed, and I was able to take an underperforming part of the business and get it sold within nine months. I then wondered what I was going to do next.

I was then the Managing Director for Phones 4U for two and a half years when a friend of mine that I knew from Esporta told me about a camera business called Jessops, he said he was putting a board team together, and needed someone who’s a good operational leader of people to run the operations and be the ops director. Because of my training in Sainsbury’s, I was able to work things out into three or four constituents, one being customers, one being people, how the business operates and if you can keep all that in harmony, you’ll get the results. I realised that so many team members and colleagues just needed to understand how they could get on, how they can contribute, feel as though it’s personable, and if you can make sure that you keep your clarity of what you want to do, it will work. I suddenly realised that I enjoyed it a lot, and this CEO gig is not all that hard really.”

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About the business

Folkestone Fixings began trading in 2003 and became a limited company in 2006. As well as branches in Ashford and Folkestone, FFX has its head office and distribution centre in Lympne, Kent. The online business is run from there, today one of the largest independent suppliers of power tools and power tool accessories, hand tools, fixings and fasteners, and general construction consumables.

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