We recently had a chat with Charlotte from R.K. Burt to find out more about their business and what they’re looking for in their perfect graduate hire.
To start us off, can you tell us a little bit about R. K. Burt?
R. K. Burt is a small wholesale importer and main distributor of fine art papers in the UK. We import from a number of different countries globally and then distribute, mainly to retail shops, but also to universities and a number of print studios. We’re a small organisation – we don’t have many employees but we’re quite streamlined in that respect, with a very high attention to customer satisfaction. Our main focus is to make sure that every customer goes away happy, and as far as I’m concerned if that happens, I’m happy!
You mentioned that there aren’t many employees, how big is the team?
There are 14 of us in total. 6 of those are in the warehouse and 8 of them are in the office which is all on the same site in London, working very closely together. Although, we do have the flexibility for a couple of people to work remotely a couple of days a week.
What would you say are your main company values?
So we have a number of goals. Our main goal is to get fine art paper to the artists who want to use it in the UK. By artists, I mean a whole range of people including photographers, printers, artists etc. We’re also always looking at customer satisfaction, we’re supplying luxury papers so our customers are paying a high price, with that people expect high levels of customer satisfaction – it’s known as the Waitrose principle in our office.
R K Burt is a family-run organisation in its third generation, so there is a strong family ethos behind it as well. Everyone who works here, aside from Adam who was employed via Gradintelligence in January, has been here for a very, very long time. I was the baby before that and I’ve been here for 7 years!
Yes, we’ve been talking a lot about SMEs lately and how working for an SME really enables you to get fully involved with all aspects of the company so we really relate to that message. What is your role in the organisation?
So, we don’t have job titles, and we don’t really have job roles, per se. I get involved in everything from sales to marketing to purchasing to operations to management of the warehouse. My role spans the whole company, which is why I love it! I’ve found that in a company, if I can understand everything that’s going on, I can bring so much more to it.
That is very characteristic of so many small businesses, and as a graduate, being in that position recently, I reckon it is becoming a very attractive proposition because it enables you to gain experience in multiple areas of a business. We speak to students and graduates all the time and many of them nowadays have a long term goal of starting their own business, so being able to have such a broad role can really help grasp the understanding of how a business operates.
Yes. There is also something to be said for working your way up from the bottom, which, doesn’t necessarily take very long in a small company. When I first started I was doing everything that you have to do to understand what happens on a day-to-day basis. This could be going and getting samples of the paper, doing the invoice run and even working in the warehouse, I’m so appreciative of the fact that I did do it because I now totally understand what our organisation process is. I think there is a real danger that graduates could come out of university and think, “Well that’s ridiculous I’ve just done a degree, why would I be doing that?”, when actually, it’s so important to have that level of understanding in any organisation! But again, that’s much easier to do in a smaller organisation because you can get that oversight in a relatively quick space of time.
That’s great, can you tell us about the role you’re recruiting for at the moment?
So it’s a fairly similar role to the one that I do at the moment, incorporating a whole range of different aspects of the business. It will be sales-based in that you will be talking to customers and processing orders, and learning about the products, which is obviously extremely important in that area. But in time you may also get involved in purchasing, get to understand the operations of the business, as well as dealing with suppliers, which is really important. We have a number of very close suppliers that we work with and relationship management with them is crucial. So, it would be a case of coming in, working in all areas of the business which would include some of the admin work to begin with to get a grasp of that. Fundamentally, you find your feet in the business, find what you enjoy and establish where your strengths lie, and then bring something to the team across all areas of the company. Vitally we’re looking for someone who is keen to learn about every area of the business and has the ability to get on well with both customers and suppliers on the phone and face-to-face.
So one of the questions we had was about the benefits available and you really outlined the benefit of being able to learn about every aspect of the business and then grow in the area where you feel your strengths are, do you have anything to add to that?
In a small company, I think one of the massive advantages is that decision-making can happen so quickly. As an example, when we started up our social media pages (which are in the infant stages) one morning someone said “Should we have a social media page?”, literally within an hour they were set up. You don’t have to wait for board meetings to then have the discussion to then circulate this through different departments, decisions can be made and implemented there and then. So that means for someone who comes into the organisation and questions why a process is done in one way when it seems there is a more efficient method, it can be discussed and modified straight away.
Often in a larger organisation, an employee may be sitting on the lower ranks and would never be able to reach the directors to have that conversation. Here, it’s a case of turning around and saying “Hey guys, what do you think of this?”, and being able to make that decision as a group as opposed to being dictated to. I see that as a real benefit and it’s something I have personally enjoyed about working here too.
Do you have any qualities that you think would be ideal in candidates who are applying for this role?
They need to be very self-motivated and have the confidence to speak to customers and suppliers. Similarly, they need to have the confidence to express their views within the organisation as well. I think the main key thing is that people want to learn about the organisation and be really motivated to do so. If they’ve got that, they can go in a whole range of different directions, without that I think they would struggle in this role.
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