While he’s been part of the Toolstation family for a little over 18 months, guided by our “Take the Lead” apprenticeship program, Sam Swales’ ambition and dedication has made him a Store Manager at just 20 years old. Initially starting as a Supervisor in June 2022, Sam made use of Toolstation’s varied development opportunities, working with his managers to reach the impressive goal of managing his own branch. There were many improvements to be made when Sam took over as Manager of the Wymondham store, but he has risen to the challenge, proving himself to be the right person for the job.

We caught up with Sam to chat about his journey, his new role, and the challenges he’s had to face along the way.

How did you get started at Toolstation?
You could say I was headhunted. I had previously worked at a competing hardware company. But after my manager of 14 months moved to Toolstation, he got in touch and offered me a supervisor role. Which thankfully, I accepted!

What made you decide to apply for your current role?
After I settled into my initial supervisor job, I very quickly set my sights on career development and chances to progress through the company. So, I took every opportunity I could to learn and grow. Toolstation offers a lot of different apprenticeships and development courses, and both my manager and regional manager at the time knew that branch management was a clear goal for me, so we got me on the “Take The Lead” apprenticeship programme. We though it would give me the best chance to be successful as soon as a suitable position became available. Come July 2023, the role in Wymondham opened up and I jumped at the opportunity to put my name forward – so now I can proudly say that I am a Store Manager at the age of 20.

What does your role involve on a day-to-day basis?
As Store Manager I still have direct contact with customers, but I also supervise the running and the overall performance of our branch. This ranges from administrative tasks such as scheduling, budgeting, and checking stock – to more personal contributions such as assessing potential employees, supporting and developing my colleagues, or coming up with steps to benefit the store’s output.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
When I came into my role at Wymondham, the store was underperforming in almost all areas. This meant I’ve had an array of challenges to face in the past few months, which have given me a wide range of experiences and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had in a high-performance store. Overall, I love the flexibility, balance and opportunity the role has supplied me with, and I’m incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to put the skills I learned from the “Take the Lead” apprenticeship programme into practice.

What kind of challenges have you had to overcome?
The Wymondham store had an overall rank of 533rd out of a total 560 branches when I joined, which is based on a number of different factors. It’s clear the store had dealt with previous management issues, but it’s been a really enjoyable journey with my team to figure out where we can improve, and balance the various situations and setbacks we’ve faced since. The constant unpredictability means each day has a new obstacle which we have to adapt our approach to overcome. Not to mention, for the first two months in the role I was still completing my apprenticeship! But with me as Store Manager, we’ve consistently moved forward in the rankings and we’re now just shy of 150th place in our most recent monthly scorecard.

How has Toolstation supported your career development?
Toolstation and Travis Perkins PLC has a huge number of benefits and opportunities that I’ve been able to take advantage of to boost my career far further than I believed was possible at 20 years old. Our internal “Take the Lead” programme has been especially useful for my development, and I think the results of the store and our consistent improvement speaks for itself. There are a huge range of other apprenticeship schemes too, for however you want to build your career at the company. My whole team has developed amazingly, and I’m proud that I can now be part of their growth journey.

Start your journey today
If you want to work in an environment that supports you to grow, and gives you chances to develop and progress in your career, we might have something for you. Browse our jobs and apply today.