FWD Column: David Visick
As FWD’s Director of Communications bids farewell to the role this month, here he summarises just a few of the things he’s learnt along the way
This is the 150th monthly column I’ve written for Wholesale News, and the first with my name on it. It’s also my last.
After 12 and a half years’ ghostwriting for seven chairmen, engaging the media on our members’ behalf, and stage managing our conferences, seminars and Gold Medal Awards, I’m leaving the role of director of communications at FWD. Before I go, I’ve been asked to step out of the wings and take a bow in the spotlight. So here I am; hello, and goodbye.
I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned in the wholesale sector. The first was that it exists. As I always say at our Introduction to Wholesale sessions, which I’m very proud to say have helped induct more than 1,000 new entrants into the channel over the years, if there’s food in front of you, there’s a wholesaler behind it. But this is an invisible industry, and that’s a problem when it comes to recruiting talented people who don’t know what they’re missing, and also when we talk to government, who don’t know what they’re overlooking when they make policy decisions.
This lack of visibility is something we’ve worked hard on at FWD, with some success, but there’s always more to do. I want to see the wholesalers who feed the nation, and give hundreds of thousands of small businesses the support they need to grow into big ones, finally get the credit they deserve.
ADAPTIVE AND RESOURCEFUL
The second thing I’ve learned about wholesale is that it’s endlessly adaptive and resourceful. Perhaps this is what you get from having 600 energetic, entrepreneurial wholesale businesses working with nearly half a million equally driven retail and catering businesses. Everything’s always under review, nothing is taken for granted and there’s always another opportunity around the corner. I think there’s something really exciting about that proposition, which would appeal to a lot of ambitious young people.
Let’s not kid ourselves, however; no massive investment in publicity about the pivotal role of wholesale in society or the thrill of deal-making is going to make the finest minds of the next generation commit to a career in it. They know their value and their values. So it’s all about job spec, company culture, flexibility and progression. If you want the best employees, you’ll have to be the best employers.
I’ve learned that wholesalers are also incredibly hard to knock down. Since February 2020, our members have weathered the kind of storms that would sink a fleet of less-robust ships, and – this is extraordinary, under the circumstances – they’re all still here. We didn’t have a single member close its doors during the pandemic, the staff shortages, the cost increases or the availability struggles. Service levels may have dipped but the wheels kept rolling, and those customers who had to close during lockdowns found their wholesalers fired up and ready to support them when they came back. What a remarkable tribute to the resilience and professionalism of the sector that is.
GOODBYE… FOR NOW
Finally, I want to say that over the past decade FWD has become a truly credible voice for its members, scoring some memorable goals with government, bringing suppliers and wholesalers together to improve understanding, communication and efficiency, and encouraging brands to capitalise on the fantastic opportunity that investment in wholesale unlocks for them. I’m
very pleased and proud to have been a part of that.
Many thanks to the FWD team and Wholesale News teams for the last 12 years, and I’ll be popping up elsewhere soon, so I guess this is goodbye… and hello.David Visick FWD FWD column