Interview: What has Suma learnt from the past 12 months?

suma

Giles Simon is a team member at Suma


What have you learnt from the past twelve months from the perspective of running a wholesale operation?
Like most people have found in their everyday lives, the pandemic has confirmed to us, as a wholesaler, that what matters most is our people. We’re a worker owned co-op, so we’re all about Suma workers anyway. But this has really been amplified over the last twelve months.

Whether it’s been protecting people with health conditions or vulnerable family members, finding ways to reduce the stress of those dealing with a lot on at home, or bearing a lot of responsibility at work, we’ve put measures in place to make it a safer workplace for all. We’ve done a lot to support workers.

And it’s been incredible how people have rallied to support one another and the business. Suma workers often multi-skill across different roles, so when the pandemic hit we worked together to ensure that essential roles were filled despite the completely different working environment. We’ve all chipped in to make sure we could carry on getting food and goods out to as many customers as possible.

How has your business changed since the pandemic hit?
Like most businesses, we’ve made a number of important changes. There are short-term ones, like more people working from home, separating shifts, reducing the number of customers we served to provide a quality service at reduced capacity.

Read more: Workers Unite! Nathalie Spencer on the benefits of working at Suma Wholefoods

And there are longer-term ones – changes that we made which we’re likely to stick with, whether that’s around different roles or the service we offer to customers. In some ways the pandemic allowed us to really concentrate on the core of our business, to focus in on what we do best.

As we hopefully head into a post-Covid world, what advice/tips can you offer from what you’ve experienced?
The big piece of advice from Suma is to put your people first. It’s your team of workers that make your business happen; without them it would be nothing. So prioritise their health and wellbeing, give them a voice and a fair reward. Because when something hits with such a big impact as the pandemic has, the only way a business can thrive is with its people fully behind it.

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Paul Hill
Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. Paul can be found on Twitter on @BW_PaulHill, or can be contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 020 7689 3376.

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