Chris Riley reflects back on the changes that have taken place during his 28 years at Park
Breaking his leg playing the sport he loves, Team Valley, branch manager, Chris Riley, swerved away from the football pitch to concentrate on a career in sales. His passion for the sport remains strong and this year his involvement with Langley Park Hotspurs FC has resulted in the company becoming its sponsor.
Langley Park holds great nostalgia for Chris as that is where Park opened its first office in 1990 where he was one of its four staff members. It now has five branches across the region and employs 75 staff. Upon leaving college I decided to train as a motor mechanic but after breaking my leg in a game of football I had to take a lot of time off. On return to work I picked up another injury while playing and the garage let me go.
I grew up in Langley Park, Durham and approached our managing director, Barry Wilkinson who had just established Park about any opportunities. I was delighted when he invited me in for an interview and appointed me. What a journey it has been!
Going back 28 years, I started in the stores department where I undertook on-the-job learning, picking up orders and making sure products were packaged correctly. As the company began to grow we moved to Birtley where we employed more staff and I was based there for 10 years progressing into internal sales. The opening of our then Darlington branch provided me with the opportunity to become a branch manager. I was there for two years and grew a five-man team.
It was when Darlington merged with our Teesside branch that I asked to move further north, which is where I am as branch manager at Team Valley. I have an 11-strong team, some of whom have been with me for the majority of my Park career and there is a great deal of trust and a will to perform and continually develop.
I started off learning everything I could about the business and by building my knowledge within sales and grabbing the opportunities which came my way, I achieved my goal. There are always challenges, whether it is hitting targets or staying ahead of new technological changes but they are to be welcomed and embraced.
It is only when I take the time to reflect that I realise how much I have developed and how far the company has come. There have been massive changes, we now have five branches and we are the leading independent electrical wholesaler in the North East of England. I have been part of this great journey. I now enjoy passing on my knowledge to my team. For example, Rhys Walker who works in my internal sales team joined us as an apprentice on leaving school. Five years later and he is a rising talent within internal sales.
It has been fantastic to see him progress and he is a hit with our very loyal customers. Nurturing and developing new talent is key to the evolution of the business. It is the blend of experience and fresh ideas that provide a perfect balance. In a competitive market where everything is instant, Park stands out because we go above and beyond to service our clients. They are our number one priority.
We have also established a very loyal customer base and have developed strong relationships with them both inside and outside of work. Indeed, we have sponsored a number of client events and raised money through joint charity initiatives. Like anything in life, you have to be likeable and approachable and that is what I have instilled in my team. I am still here 28 years later because they are a great bunch, we trust each and share the same values.