Tracey Clifford has been named a finalist in the Team Leader of the Year section of the 2014 FTA everywoman in Transport & Logistics awards. She talks to Workingmums.co.uk.
Tracey Clifford knows the value of flexible working and how it motivates employees from first hand experience. The flexibility she has had at work has allowed her to care for her daughter who has type 1 diabetes and to rise up the career ladder. Having experienced the advantages of flexible working herself, she is very conscious as a manager that flexibility is a business as well as an employee benefit.
It is this attitude and her ability to inspire loyalty and hard work that led to her being named a finalist in the Team Leader of the Year section of the 2014 FTA everywoman in Transport & Logistics awards which were presented this week. She says: “We have a strong team at Wincanton and we support each other. If someone needs flexibility we know it works both ways. Ultimately it is about give and take."
Tracey says her daughter has inspired her career. Tracey was a stay at home single mum for the first 18 months of her daughter’s life. “I did not consider having a career until I had my daughter. I decided I needed to grow up and get a career. I wanted my daughter to respect me and I was going insane talking baby language. She has been the driver for what I have achieved,” she says.
Her local college had some free return to work courses and provided childcare. She did a six-month course and got a distinction. Her course tutor recommended she did further training in accountancy because of her skills in maths. She contacted the Association of Accounting Technicians and started two and a half years of training. Again free childcare was provided. After a year she got a job working part time for Age Concern while she was studying. She then moved to Ryder Logistics who supported through her Chartered Institute of Management Accountants exams. There she was responsible for consolidating the Logistics results in the UK and Europe and reporting into the USA.
After just over three years, she left for Mypetstop where she was Finance Manager for the Banfield veterinary practice and the Mypetstop centres in Leeds, Manchester and Washington. “I did everything from selling sites from scratch to setting up tills in stores,” she says.
It was during this period that her daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which has a very rapid onset. “You get ill very quickly, within six to seven days. I took her to the doctor’s and they said it was a virus at first. I was insistent and went back. They gave her a urine test which showed she had diabetes. She had ketosis and could have gone into a diabetic coma. She was in hospital for over a week,” says Tracey.
The doctors managed to stabilise her daughter who was aged eight at the time and taught Tracey to give her regular injections of insulin. She had regular hospital appointments. Indeed she still has these and Tracey still accompanies her daughter, who is now 19.
After working for Mypetstop Tracey moved to Stoke where she has family nearby and took up a post as commercial manager at Screwfix. She was tupe’d over to Wincanton in 2007. Wincanton is a major logistics company which offers transport, warehousing and other specialist support services to its customers.
By 2008 she was appointed distribution manager for its Stafford warehouse and had responsibility for everything from HR and finance to health and safety. For the last two years, Tracey has been General Manager of a Multi-User warehouse site in Daventry whose main customer is a major baby retailer which has just moved from being an online site to setting up stores around the country.
The retailer started talking to Wincanton in February 2012 and Wincanton was awarded the contract in June. Tracey and her team had just 16 weeks to recruit staff and set up a distribution centre and warehouse which would be able to service their first store when it opened in September. The goods started arriving in July, just a few weeks after the contract was awarded. “It is the first time Wincanton has helped a company transition from online to stores at that speed,” she says, adding that managing expectations and communication were key in getting the customer to understand the different needs of moving from online to offline. “With online you can just update the site about a new promotion, but with a store you have to plan ahead so the stock is in before you start the promotion. It’s a culture change,” says Tracey.
After the first store opened a new store opened every week until there were 10 store open in all. Tracey says the experience created a strong team bond. “People would arrive at 6am and still be there at 11pm,” she says. “We would have pizzas delivered at night. If you go through something like that you tend to bond as a team. We worked hard, but a sense of humour is also vital. You have to have fun at the same time and you need to think outside the box. Everyone in the core start-up team is still here,” she says. Some of the managers are working on other projects within Wincanton and sharing their experience.
After an initial highly intensive 12 months, Tracey’s focus now is on improving what Wincanton can offer the retailer, saving them money while providing a good service. She was working 10-12 hour days during that first year, but now works eight to 10 hours with one day working from home which allows her to be around for her daughter. She also has a 160-mile round trip every day from her home in Stoke to the office, which she calls her “thinking time”.
She says Wincanton has been very understanding of her daughter’s appointments and tells one anecdote which illustrates the give and take attitude she favours with her own team. In her first years at Wincanton her daughter became ill overnight. Within a few hours she was seriously ill and Tracey had to take her to hospital at 2am. She had a contractual review the next day. Her daughter was stabilised and Tracey was able to do her review by conference call from the hospital. “It allowed me to support my daughter and not let Wincanton down. They have been brilliant,” she says, “and that has driven my loyalty to them.”