Going Forward – Chapter Eight

……Previously

The accounts weren’t really detailed enough in themselves to give a clue as to the firm’s solvency or other key data, but I decided that I’d attend the interview and decide whether I was interested.

I fired off a few more applications then realised that I’d have time to collect Paul from school. I phoned Jayne and asked whether she’d mind if I did that in case she’d started doing something special for his tea. I don’t know how we’d have managed without her and it seemed unfair to give her a break while I was able to do the school run for the time being. She was fine about it and it meant that Paul would have to play with his toys, have his tea at home, and be there to greet his Mum as soon as she got home from working at the shop.

Continued…..

CHAPTER EIGHT

An interview

I parked in one of the bays provided for  visitors. The company was housed in a series of single storey buildings on a small industrial estate in South Manchester. I’d noticed on my way in that the estate was quite close to a Metrolink tram stop. That would be handy if I got the job for whenever I didn’t want to have to drive to work.

The place seemed to be fenced off securely and all visitors had to report to the Main Reception office which was close to where I was parked. I had to press a button to gain admittance, which I did and was told to push the door and wait to be met. I was glad that I was now standing inside because it was pouring with rain outside.

I was now in  a small, windowless area where  three chairs against a wall were the only furniture. Several faded posters provided only the barest information about the company.

A young woman opened a door in one of the walls, got me to confirm my name, then led me to a waiting area where I was to sit until called. There were no other candidates waiting. There were some more examples of posters advertising the company’s subsidiaries. I wasn’t impressed. Within just a few minutes, one of the office doors opened and a middle-aged woman invited me to enter.

The room wasn’t particularly large – perhaps four metres by six – and I was asked to sit in a chair facing a large desk behind which the woman and a man in his sixties were sitting.  Behind them there was a large window overlooking the car park. The man introduced himself as Andrew York, giving his title as Managing Director. He stood to shake my hand.

He asked me what I knew about the company and I told him what I had read. He asked whether I had heard of the company before applying and I said that I hadn’t. The woman, a Mrs Wilson, who said that she was the General Administration Manager, asked what I thought I could do to improve the company’s marketing efforts. I asked her to tell me first what she understood by marketing and what the company was doing at present.  She was taken aback – apparently assuming that I was turning the tables and trying to interview her.  Nevertheless, it transpired that she saw marketing as a mixture of advertising and direct selling. I said that I’d also need to know more about what  the company produced before I could indicate what I’d advise improving.

She offered to show me around and before we reconvened the interview. The MD agreed.

The production areas were what I’d expected of such factories. The differences between them were mainly related to the size and nature of their output. In the first building, printed information was being applied to sturdy packaging boxes.  The boxes were supplied by the customers for filling and dispatch. The print quality was adequate for the purpose – briefly describing the contents and providing information such as weight and a QR code.  In the second factory, smaller packaging was being printed – mainly to contain pharmaceutical items that would sit on the shelves of pharmacies ready for dispensing. The packages were made of lighter material and the quality of printing was superior. It was clear that the design – logo and information – was dictated by the suppliers’ marketing departments. The third company produced point-of-sale material to contain items for use on retailers’ shelves and tills. The quality here was high and included blister packs.

From what I could gather, pricing was done as a mark-up on cost – the same percentage across the three companies and dictated by the MD – whom it transpired was an accountant rather than a printer. He’d bought the group as an investment. When the interview resumed I was offered a cup of coffee and biscuits. I was asked for my impressions.

I gave her and her boss a basic summary of how the Four Ps – product, promotion, price and place-  fit into a marketing strategy and how they need to be integrated. I suggested that I’d need to know more about the contribution  each  company’s annual output made to the overall product segmentation in terms of turnover and profitability.  I asked the Managing Director for his view of  the beneficial product of each product area and how he related it to the company’s pricing policy.  He asked what I meant.

I suggested that, from what I’d seen – and in crude terms – the first company was selling a cost, the second information and the third was selling revenue generation; that the product of the first company was being purchased by cost clerks who had little discretion and were merely buying the cheapest product from among many potential suppliers. The cartons printed by the second firm might be being bought by someone with more discretion who was more concerned with quality. I suggested that the third type of product was most probably bought by  marketing executives with greater purchasing discretion as part of a product promotion/ revenue generation budget. Whereas the other companies were driven by cost or product differentiation concerns, those of the third company would be ‘shouting’, “Buy me, Buy me,” directly to retail customers. Given the discretion differences between end purchasers, it would be reasonable to assume that a standard cost-based pricing policy was probably inappropriate.

I concluded by saying that how the company advertised and sold its products would need to be guided by an information-based strategy which I’d need to develop to advise him. I got the feeling that the MD wouldn’t be keen for anyone other than himself and his financial director have access to the kind of information that I’d be needing. It seemed to me that the traditional accountant in him would be reluctant to consider value-added based marginal cost pricing.

The interview ended on a cordial note and I was told that they would let me know either way. I wasn’t going to hold my breath.

Featured Photo

Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of the Burlington Arcade in London. This arcade is located on Piccadilly, almost directly opposite the Piccadilly Arcade whose image I featured yesterday. I took this photo in early January 2020.

The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K-1 36MP cropped sensor camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 15 mm and f/3.5. The shutter speed was 1/80 secs and the ISO was 800. The camera was tripod-mounted and the post-processing was in Lightroom.

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