Last week Helen (left, above) was presented with a Tissot watch at a small reception (in the Gardenscape #1 shed) for her 25 years with the John Bourne Group of companies. And the week before, Cathy presented all of us with a super lemon drizzle cake, in celebration of her 30 years with the Group. And, as you can tell if you look carefully above, they are sisters. But you certainly couldn’t tell from the photo that together, they have spent 55 years at The Wharf!
Cathy is now our Accounts Administrator and actually controls the most important purse strings in the company, namely those related to wages, salaries and bonuses. However, in her career she has handled most aspects of operations in John Bourne & Co, starting with purchase ledger entries and sheer typing, not to mention controlling the CB radio that was the only means of contacting the drivers back in the days before mobile telephony. (And Telex – if you can remember that, you are showing your age!) She also dealt with haulage tickets and transport routing – not to mention being Peter B’s PA at one stage.
Helen’s job title is Sales Assistant and apart from sales at Gardenscape, she also provides backup for other functions within the company. She, too, has seen many aspects of the Group operations, starting as a temporary receptionist, doing various clerical work and providing the logistics function at Bourne Amenity when it became a separate company.
While Cathy started her work career elsewhere, Helen started her first job at Bourne’s – her sister helped her find a temporary receptionist job after returning from a gap year in Australia (a time when most of us would feel the need for a secure income) – and the temporary position rapidly became permanent. In fact, she had even done some work experience at the company, aged 15. Now that’s devotion!
The sisters grew up on the family farm in Rolvenden, and both still live locally. They have two brothers, one of whom also has worked for the Group in the past. It is not, then, surprising to find that they both rate the family and community aspects of the business as particularly important. Working at Bourne’s gives a sense of belonging and perhaps also of staying with the farming roots of the family – actual farming on a small farm not being a practical option these days.
Now they both have families of their own and, whereas Cathy’s daughter is sufficiently grown up that she also has time for some voluntary work locally, Helen’s children are still young enough to keep her fully occupied when she is not at work. But they both like travelling on holiday – Cathy’s family often to France and Helen’s to the West Country – and they both love Scotland, where their maternal grandmother was born. It is certainly possible to detect the older sister/younger sister personalities, though neither of them are willing to say that the other was in any way difficult to have as a sibling. But maybe they were just on best behaviour for the joint interview!
Few personal stories could better illustrate the advantages both for staff and for the company of working in a family environment. There is also no doubt that customers and suppliers can feel the warmth and friendly attitude of these lovely sisters – as do all their colleagues!
Here's the Bourne Amenity team going bowling - enhanced with a young lad called Leo. The photo shows happy, smiling faces before the competitive instincts kicked in...
We understand Drew was the eventual winner - congratulations!
Phil Burdett is our Transport Manager - he is responsible for the Group's fleet of lorries and other vehicles. Not only does he look after the maintenance, supplies for and administration of the vehicles and associated infrastructure, but he is also the chief logistics brain for the John Bourne & Co lorries as they negotiate the public obstacle courses of SE England - a.k.a. our road network.
Phil has been with us for 11 years - first as a driver and then moving into his current position. Before that, he worked as a market trader - this must explain his sunny disposition and how he gets on so well with everybody. It is amazing how he can greet everybody with a cheery smile, even on a wet Monday morning. No doubt having a young family also helps with a positive outlook...
A great deal of Phil's work involves administration. Some of this is external, to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the authorities on HGV operators, and also to show to our customers that our commitment to safety and quality of service is second to none. The internal admin, though, is probably Phil's least favourite activity. Much of this stems from John Bourne & Co's unique role as transport operator both for group companies and external customers, while also being a supplier of agricultural lime, compost and aggregates. There can be quite a lot of paperwork associated with this combination, but he gets on with it, ably assisted by Liz. One of these days, we will come up with an improved system...
Now, logistics and problem-solving, that's what Phil really thrives on. There's always something new - vehicles finding interesting ways of breaking down or getting stuck, and road closures to think around. Although GPS and various forms of navigational aids make life easier, you still need a taxi-driver's knowledge of the roads and byways, together with a puzzle-solver's intuitive feel for the best way to look at a problem - that's our Phil!