Be Inspired Series
Outdoor Department Manager
Podium 4 Sport
Started as a shop assistant in Northern Ireland, completed courses at the Australian Institute of Management
What does your job entail?
As outdoor department manager my role at Podium varies from day to day. I am involved in buying the stock for our store which entails visiting trade shows to view up and coming lines for each season and constantly monitoring any new brands that come onto the market to see if they may be of interest to our customers.
Day to day I am involved in the merchandising of the store and in staff training, making sure that the Podium team have excellent product knowledge and offer the highest standard of customer service.
Behind the scenes is stock control, which entails everyone’s favourite past time, the dreaded stock take, but obviously this is an important part of the business.
Is it 9-5?
No, as it is retail you have to work late nights and weekends, there is also the stock take mentioned earlier which needs to be carried out after hours.
Trade shows also mean early starts weather it’s to catch flights or driving long distances, and being away at days at a time which include weekends.
How did you get into this line of work?
I have had a love of the outdoors from an early age as my grandmother was an avid hiker and would take me on many a long day hike in the Mournes; I first hiked up Donard at the age of seven and never looked back. So when I had the chance to get into the outdoor industry I jumped at it.
Outline your career to date?
As regards to the outdoor industry, I started as a shop assistant for a long and well established local outdoor retailer back in 1997. I soon was promoted to shop manager and after the store was relocated to larger premises due to increased business I was promoted to area manager.
In 2007 my wife and I moved to Perth, Australia where I started work with Sea to Summit, a manufacturer of camping and travel accessories which is supplied worldwide - they are also Australia’s largest outdoor distributor.
After the birth of our baby daughter in 2010 we all returned to sunny Belfast to be closer to family (babysitters!) and I started working for Podium 4 Sport when they extended their premises and launched the new outdoor store in September last year.
Tell us about your Qualifications / training.
I have completed courses in time management and customer service at the Australian Institute of Management. I have also completed the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and a first aid course with St John’s ambulance – all which benefit me today.
In regards to working in the retail industry, all you need is a good level of education; no specific qualifications are needed to get into the retail trade.
However, when you specialise in a specific area of retail, such as outdoors, a good knowledge of that area is needed. It is essential that I know what a person needs to be kitted out with for each outdoor activity as you can be selling gear that your customer’s life could depend on, you need to supply the correct equipment for the correct conditions.
In my role experience can be as important as education as having spent time in different environments helps to build the knowledge of equipment needed for various conditions. The bottom line you really need to know what you’re talking about and selling.
What qualities are required for your job – personal and professional?
Personal qualities - an outgoing personality, being approachable and determined, and having a willingness to listen, which leads on to having plenty of patience!
Professional qualities – a good eye for detail and a friendly manner – this is key when working with the general public as you come across all walks of life.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Always expect the unexpected.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
While in Australia I got into four-wheel driving. I did a course in this thanks to my employers who had all the staff take one before a month-long trip through the outback where we tackled ravines I thought no truck could ever get through.
Another perk in Australia was the use of the company’s 20-foot rib; this is where I picked up the joys of wakeboarding with the water shooting up your nose after spectacular face plants, but great fun once you get the hang of it.
Back home, I love to get down to the Mournes for a good hike and get away from it all. It’s great to be able to take my daughter on our hikes now that we have a backpack carrier for her and start to show her where I spent most of my summers as a kid.
I love to surf but I have to admit that I have gone soft after surfing the warmer waters of Oz but at least there are no sharks to worry about in our frigid drink, although my daughter seems to have no fear of the temperature. It looks like she will become a much better surfer than me, which is not that hard really.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
You can find a picture of me in most Australian outdoor stores as I appear on the packaging of mosquito net products.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
I would have to say my wife and daughter, but I would like to give a mention to my good friend Derek, who had a terrible accident while working with an outdoor pursuits company in Wales. It left him paralysed but he still has a great sense of humour and we have a good laugh when we get together. He is an inspiration to our entire circle of friends.