James Bielby

Bielby column: Employees are key to success

When it comes to sustained success, look no further than the quality of your employees according to FWD’s Chief Executive – and as he trawls the past as part of the Federation’s centenary, there’s plenty of evidence that agrees

FWD is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and we’ve been looking through old records, letters and magazines from throughout that time. It’s interesting how the attitude to staff training has evolved over the years. As manual jobs give way to more skilled roles, the notion of training is established, but the concept of upward mobility within organisations seems to have come late to wholesale… unless you happened to be the part of the family that owned the business.


Suggesting that management could learn from the workers would probably have had you marked down as a dangerous radical in the early days of what was to become FWD. However, from the 1960s when FWD’s Fellowship Fund was founded, we start to see a recognition that corporate success is built on individual fulfilment, challenge and reward.

The Fellowship Fund provides learning and development grants to people working in wholesale, and covers up to half the cost of career-development courses, with our members providing the rest. Over the past five years, we’ve helped hundreds of people learn new skills and strategies that they’re now using
for the good of the wholesale sector.

These days of course, we understand that talented people are our greatest asset. This was reiterated time and again at the Women in Wholesale conference, which we were delighted to speak at last month. Identifying and nurturing colleagues, and giving opportunities to those who want them, is more effective and far cheaper than recruiting externally.

FWD’s own Introduction to Wholesale sessions also play a role in guiding those who are starting a career in the sector, usually on the supplier side, and our next session is being held at Parfetts in Sheffield this month.

One of FWD’s roles is to shine the spotlight on people who are committed to the wholesale sector,
and we have two opportunities to do this next month. On 6 November we’re gathering some of the industry’s best talent at the House of Commons to showcase to ministers and MPs the investment wholesalers make in training. We’ll be handing out awards to some of the apprentices, trainees
and graduates who have chosen to build their careers in wholesale and highlighting their employers’ support for sustainable career development.

Awarding success

Then we’re back at Old Billingsgate on 29 November for the FWD Gold Medal Awards, the annual celebration of the top talents in our sector. This year’s nominations include drivers, telesales executives, shop-floor staff, customer-support champions, and buyers and sellers.

Each of them deserves our thanks for their contribution and achievements, and with the help of 800 of their industry colleagues, that’s what we intend to give them.

FWD column James Bielby Skills and training staff