Helena Drakakis speaks to Holland Bazaar’s Cem Matur about building the family business
There are businesses that are in it for a fast buck and those who want to build trust, says Cem Matur of London wholesaler Holland Bazaar.
“We want to nurture contacts and provide a good service because we’re in it for the long term,” he says.
At 27 years old, Matur is an old head on young shoulders. Colleagues describe him as a “true leader, both born and bred”, but he has come a long way since he was a boy sweeping floors and unloading boxes during his school holidays to help out in his father’s firm.
The son of a Kurdish refugee who fled Turkey in 1995, he has seen the family business develop from a small fresh fruit and vegetable wholesaler based in Edmonton, north London, to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation. Customers can now choose from more than 100 fruits and vegetables, alongside confectionery, soft drinks, frozen, household, dairy and grocery.
In 2017, Holland Bazaar expanded to open a second London branch in Croydon, and since joining the business full-time in 2014, Matur has been an integral part of that change.
Having worked himself from the depot floor to sales manager to confectionery buyer and, most recently, FMCG category manager, he has recently taken some time out of the business to undertake an MBA at Imperial College, London, and he’ll re-enter later this year in a senior management role.
One of the major changes Matur implemented was to create an on-site maintenance and repair garage. Although Holland Bazaar is collection-based, it provides a delivery service to many caterers.
“Our delivery service is crucial as it increases our reputation with visibility on the road, but maintenance and repair of our lorries was creating too much downtime,” Matur explains. To rectify the problem, he proposed the building of an on-site garage and hired a fork-lift engineer and mechanic, who now fixes anything from vehicles to refrigeration units.
“As a result, repair time was reduced from days to hours and costs were slashed by £120,000 in the first year,” he says.
Likewise, health and safety on the depot floor also needed improvement. “Previously, everyone was doing their bit, but this was diverting valuable resources,” says Matur.
After much consideration, the business took the step of employing a full-time health and safety manager. “Systems are now enforced and time-consuming paperwork is taken care of,” he says, adding that improved compliance has had several positive knock-on effects.
“Having a proper system in place means all stock is checked thoroughly before entering the warehouse.
If it’s at the wrong temperature it is rejected, and this reduces wastage
and customer returns,” he explains.
Also helping to reduce wastage at the wholesaler’s Edmonton site is the purchase of a waste compactor and cardboard baler. As a result, Holland Bazaar can recycle more and pay less for disposal costs.
He says: “We now recycle more than 20 tonnes of cardboard every month. We’ve saved £32,000 on disposal costs per year and generate between £20,000-£25,000 revenue from selling on the cardboard.”
At the heart of the business, though, is a keen commercial and customer focus. In Matur’s previous role as FMCG category manager, he grew the category by £3m in one year through a combination of building trust with suppliers and moving to a direct supply rather than a third-party arrangement.
“Sometimes it takes great persistence to sign a direct agreement and you have to prove your worth to suppliers, but it really helps the bottom line.
“If I can buy cheaper then it’s a huge amount to add to your margin,” he says.
Holland Bazaar has also grown its range, particularly around snacks and crisps, to offer the customer what they want with the best deals offered through the wholesaler’s retail club.
But the personal touch is where Matur says the business is strongest. Despite growth, it has never lost its family-run ethos with customers and employees.
Barbecues and parties are held for staff several times a year, and there’s a weekly football match. On the warehouse floor, staff are nurtured through the company, encouraged to have ideas and discuss problems. “Our staff retention rate is 90% for management positions and 80% for the warehouse. There’s always room for improvement but it’s a great team effort,” he says.
60 Seconds With Cem Matur
What’s the best piece of business advice you can offer?
That you get out what you put in. If you approach your work with focus, determination and a desire to learn, then you will achieve much more than if you approach it in a half-hearted or closed-minded manner. Another thing to remember is that it also helps to treat people well and be friendly. It sounds incredibly basic, but it works.
What’s your philosophy in regard to work?
It’s where you will spend the majority of your time, so it makes sense to take it seriously and achieve while also making it enjoyable. When we invest time into anything it’s gone forever: it’s gone whether you do a great job or a terrible one, so do your best to get a return.
What has had the biggest impact on your career?
It would be two people: my father and uncle. They have always been there to guide me with sage advice. At the same time, they have given me the freedom to make my own mistakes and learn from them.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
Playing sports, mainly football and boxing, and reading non-fiction. Books are the product of years of experience distilled into a written format – a fantastic way to quickly gain knowledge that took the author years to learn. Aside from that, I’m currently restoring an old Japanese sports car for track use.