What does your job involve day to day?
My job is head of distribution for Toolstation and I’m ultimately responsible for our distribution centre network. I lead 1,000+ colleagues on a weekly basis and am responsible for making sure they work in an environment where they feel safe, managing and distributing 7,000 pallets, 12,000 roll cages and 60,000 parcels per week in a safe, efficient and effective way.

What do you love about it?
I’m an engineer at heart and love solving problems and fixing things and my current role is full of opportunities to fix problems or make things work better with my team. I just love that kind of part of my role which means we can do things better.

What are the challenges?
As a business we offer 25,000 SKU's, delivering direct to our customers or providing through our 550+ stores. Making sure we have the right stock in the right place at the right time for our customers, is key to the success of our business and is the ongoing challenge for our function.

How long have you done this job?
I have been in my current role for just over four years and worked at Toolstation for 20, it celebrates its birthday this year.

How did your career progress from being a temp?
When I first joined Toolstation, in the early days we operated out of the current Toolstation Whiteladies Road store (in Bristol) which is a converted old filling station. The front was set up as the trade counter as it still is now, and the back which used to be a mechanic’s garage which had been converted into an e-commerce distribution centre, storing stock on racking to service orders coming in from the newly set up website. My role as a temp was to pick and pack these orders as they came through.

If I am honest the first few days at Toolstation were spent sweeping the floor watching the stock pick printer for new orders - however this did not last for long, as the printer was quickly inundated with a thick pile! During this time I became interested in the ongoing operation at the adjoining trade counter, asked a lot of questions and helped out during downtime in the warehouse. Soon a permanent position came up as Assistant Store Manager which I applied for and was successful.

What next for you?
Toolstation continues to grow and expand at pace, both in the UK and in Europe so there are still many exciting challenges for us ahead. With continued growth and expansion come opportunities, and when the next one comes along that I like the look of, I will throw my hat in the ring and see what happens.

What led you to Toolstation as a temp in the first place?
Having worked with the agency for a year or so I had completed a couple of assignments with well established organisations where the prospects of progression looked few and far between. I told the agency that I was interested in working for a smaller dynamic enterprise where I could make a difference.

The agency introduced me to Toolstation where I had an interview with the future Operations Director. He was really passionate about the new business and the team involved in setting it up. In fact he sold me the vision of how successful Toolstation would become, which at the time I took with a pinch of salt but thought yes, there is plenty of energy and ambition here, I can fit in and make a difference so I will give this a go. Turns out, the vision became reality and here we are 20 years later!

What made you stay?
It's just been such an exciting place to work! A lot of people progress by moving companies every three or four years, but in my 20 year career I’ve had about seven different jobs. Each of them has kept me fully entertained shall we say, and I love the pace, ambition and excitement of working for this business. I couldn’t think of working for anyone else.

In 2009 we embarked on an aggressive store opening plan and we required a new site dedicated to sending replenishment to our current stores and getting the stock to new stores so they would have enough stock to open. It was a huge challenge but in two or three years we were looking for another one in the country. It underlined to me the ambition of our business.

What are your top five tips to turn a temporary job into a permanent one?

Attendance. You can't do a good job if you are not there or not there on time.
Communication. If you can't be at work for any reason, absence or holiday - make sure both your agency and the business you are working for know. It is important for your employer to know so they can arrange alternative cover for when you are not there.
Interest. Make sure your employer knows you have an interest in the business you are working for. Fact find from your colleagues, check out the website and notice boards on site. Find out how permanent opportunities are advertised. Ask your line manager what opportunities are upcoming.
Go the extra mile. Take those additional hours if they are offered. Offer to help out if you can see the business is struggling in an area. Stand out.
Get to know your colleagues (agency and permanent). Get involved with any social, sports or charity events. Become part of the team.

Jim Gowland
Head of Distribution at Toolstation