Ben Price, Commercial Manager at AGRO Merchants Whitchurch, won the prestigious GCCA European Cold Chain Future Leader Award last year and represented Europe in the global finals held in Chicago.

The GCCA Future Leader Award recognises talented young professionals who have the potential to become future leaders and make a positive contribution to the development of the global temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics industry.

Ben, what did it mean to you to win the European Cold Chain Future Leader Award?

Winning the award gave me a great sense of achievement but moreover, it was an opportunity for me to push myself out of my comfort zone. It was a great opportunity to learn, meet new people, understand how other businesses are tackling the current challenges within the industry and broaden my knowledge of temperature controlled storage and transport.

I spent the first eight years in the industry working for a family-run company where I felt valued and where I felt I made a difference. Now I am in the fortunate position of being part of a much larger organisation with the fresh challenges that presents. I am a smaller cog in a much larger machine, but I still feel valued and know I can make a difference. It gave me a great sense of pride to be nominated by AGRO Merchants Group for the award.

What skills do you feel are essential to be a good leader?

I am very self-motivated and as someone who is naturally competitive and proud, I find the fresh challenges that are thrown my way on a daily basis highly motivating. I learnt very early on in my career that you will not grow, develop, or improve unless you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and whilst this can be unnerving, the sense of achievement afterwards makes it more than worthwhile.

At the beginning of my introduction to leadership, delegation is something I struggled to grasp, living by the adage of ‘if you want a job doing well, do it yourself’. Whilst I have never been afraid of putting the hours in, I recognised that I needed to change and I learnt that you can achieve a lot more if you let the people around you take control of tasks.  They might get it wrong the first time, but then I would have done the same myself. I take the greatest amount of job satisfaction today from seeing my team grow, develop and perform well, knowing that my contribution is to lead, coach, and provide direction.

Tell us a bit about your background and your role at AGRO and what you like about working here.

Growing up in a farming family I have never been afraid of a hard day’s work. Following completion of a degree in Business and Management at the University of Wales Aberystwyth and a period of travel in South East Asia, I joined Grocontinental in August 2009 as a 22-year-old Warehouse Operative. With my initial responsibility of unloading trailers, it was a great introduction to the working world and, at this time, I had zero knowledge of the temperature controlled storage and distribution industry.

I immediately saw the many opportunities that the business and more widely, the industry presented to develop a progressive career.  I quickly gained a wider knowledge of the business and progressed to fulfil a variety of roles including Warehouse Operative, Control Centre Administrator, Customer Service Administrator, Account Manager and Customer Service Manager. 

In 2015, I was appointed as Commercial Manager, responsible for the management of our 85 customer accounts, whilst leading a team of 23 Customer Service Managers and Account Co-ordinators. I also became a member of Whitchurch’s senior Leadership Team which oversees the day-to-day running of our site. The experience gained in each role has proved invaluable; it has given me a broad overall knowledge and allows me to operate as a rounded and considerate manager today. 

I love the job I do, enjoy working with the people across the wider AGRO Merchants Group and find the industry in which we operate exciting and dynamic.

What do you think makes AGRO different from other companies? What makes AGRO stand out from our competition?

Over recent years we have seen a great deal of consolidation in the food industry, with the number of key players seemingly reducing as mergers and acquisitions continue to take place. Our industry had not followed suit, but AGRO Merchants have now established a strong position in both Europe and North America. We have been able to take advantage of the wider network we are now part of and offer a number of customer’s solutions and benefits where we previously could not.

This continues to be particularly important in the UK as we prepare to leave the EU and customers need the flexibility to be able to store product either side of the English Channel. We have been able to provide many customers with a wider network solution where previously they would have had to go out to the marketplace and look for their own solution. We can also take advantage of knowledge, skills and innovation available within our wider network of people and use these skills to replicate solutions already established at other AGRO Merchants sites, the poultry re-packing facility in Ireland is a perfect example of this.

Even through consolidation, at site level we have been able to hold onto our local roots, the great relationships we have established and continue to develop with our customers, and our commodity expertise that brought us to where we are today.

What would you like to achieve at the company?

For me, this all about being part of a team at AGRO Merchants that has the ability and infrastructure to continuing moving forward and become best in class. We have fantastic people in our business and we challenge each other every day to be better than we were yesterday. I am really excited about the journey we are on and the benefits it will bring our customers over the coming years.

Expansion of AGRO Merchants network in the UK is imminent and heading that up from a Business Development point of view is highly motivating, I am really looking forward to working with our current customer base and new customers to help streamline and improve their supply chains.

 

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