Sales Director, Craig Hopwood celebrates 16 years at Park

They say that time flies when you are happy at work which is why my 16 year anniversary at the company has come around very quickly. I have worked for three companies since I left school and sales was always the area that I was interested in.

At 16 I left education and began a youth training course for three years with Newey and Eyre. I then moved to Reay Electrical, now known as Electric Centre and steadily built up experience in internal and external sales before becoming branch manager.

I was working in Leeds and very much wanted to get back to the North East and approached managing director at Park, Barry Wilkinson via a friend of mine, Craig Armstrong, branch manager at Sunderland.

I am not someone who moves from job-to-job but this opportunity really appealed to me. The culture of the business was like a breath of fresh air. We are a very close knit firm where you know everyone and where families become friends. It may seem a contradiction, but I am able to work in a relaxed, focussed environment within a tough sales arena.

I began my career with Park back in 2001 as branch manager of the Thornaby office. In 2007 I was appointed director while still running the branch and in 2013 I moved to head office as sales director. I was first looking after Sunderland and Teesside which then changed in 2014 when I became responsible for sales across the full company.

Sales is a hard area to work in. You have to be likeable, as people buy people and it requires lots of experience. An example of this is one of our youngsters at the Newcastle branch who has been with the business for two years building up his knowledge in internal sales before moving to a three month trial in external sales. He is a very likable lad who has a solid rapour with his customers and would go the extra mile for them, so I am confident that he can make the transition.

Working with the younger team, it is important to mentor and guide them. My attitude is that I am on-hand whenever possible. If someone is making the step-up from telesales to becoming customer-facing, I am more than happy to accompany them to see the customer or simply answer any queries they may have. Another tip I would give to young people coming through is to take your time, build up your knowledge, and learn your products. You cannot sell if you don’t understand your customer or your product.

Reflecting back over my time at Park the business has changed dramatically and that has been down to constant growth thanks to Barry’s can-do attitude. We now have a lighting design division, an industrial service, energy solution and building technologies, we have steadily built the branches and work with key manufactures which appeals to our clients. The creation of the board of directors also opened up a new way of working and thinking with more creativity and opinion added into the business.

My role has not been easy and my mobile is never switched off. I keep it on 24 hours and will always answer a call. The 2009 recession hit us hard but we worked longer hours, opened earlier and finished later to try and break the mould and I ensured that the sales team went above and beyond the call of duty.

How will the industry change?

The industry is always changing. The internet for many sales teams has changed the playing field but in my opinion and in our line of work you need to combine both elements. You need to know your market, it is important not to cut the middle man out. The internet will sell products but it is people that create opportunities and build the relationships.