2 minutes of your time: Paul Cheema

Sent from Coventry to judge the SLR Rewards, the successful retailer and Association of Convenience Stores board member is anything but silent on the topics of the day. Despite facing some trying issues recently, Paul remains a resolute community worker and keen to share his experience.

Factfile

The director of Malcolm’s Stores for over a quarter of a century, Paul Cheema is known as a spokesman for the retail industry. He’s been called to give expert opinion in the broadcast media and frequently quoted in the press.

Since 2011, he has been a director of the Independents Board at the Association of Convenience Stores. Along with a host of board and representative roles, he lists property development among his other interests.

Paul has a string of awards to his credit, including Convenience Retailer of the Year in 2013. He’s still looking for a non-profit board to join.

Being an SLR Rewards judge – what do you most look forward to?
Firstly, being asked to judge is an honour, whether at the SLR Rewards, or anything. I really feel a responsibility to be fair and honest. I enjoyed seeing innovation coming out, a bit of passion for the industry, and what retailers have done, over and above, to make their businesses stand out.

You’ve been an award winner yourself, so is the boot now on the other foot?
Not at all. I think this is one industry and we’re all on a journey together. We’re all here to learn, and I’ve just had the privilege of being able to learn from the best by making myself involved. This sector will keep getting better if we all remember that.

You’re also active as a business counsellor?
I sit on various panels, such as working with retail researchers him! I sit with the Nisa trade working group, and I’ve been with other retail business groups in the past. It comes back to sharing experiences. The minute we start to shy away from thinking collaboratively, that is the minute the industry is past its peak.

How do you fit that in with ACS duties?
It’s fortunate for us, because my brother and I can run the business, so we share our time between that and our other work, but networking is always a very important part of building a business, so we see it as part of our plan, we always have done.

Do you still have time to get involved in the community?
Yes, that is very much our day job. That’s how I see it. We have a business that’s built up in the community, and running that business without the support and involvement of the community would not be possible. We work with everyone, from the occasional customer, to the regular, through to everyone who has a part to play – local councillor and MP. Get teamed up with the community along with those who represent the community and you’ve pretty much done your advertising.

How much time do you have for being in your business?
Plenty. It’s all about making sure that the business always comes first. I believe that effectively running your business from one day to the next, and learning from the experiences, becomes the best work you can do on your business. You’ve got to get that right, and understanding that getting the balance right is what really matters.

Do you practice what you preach?
Yes, I try to – you get the odd hiccough now and again, but we’ve got a good network group and we’re never too shy to ask a favour. Everyone knows we’ll return it just as readily.

Is crime an issue you’re keen to address?
Yes, very much so. There are bad apples in every community, we know that, but I’ve spent a lot of time recently in the media hammering home the point that crime, particularly shoplifting and illegal trade, doesn’t just hurt local shopkeepers, it harms the whole community. Crime is an attack on the community you live with.

Have you noted any differences between trading in England and Scotland?
No matter where you are from, no matter what culture, we all face the same issues when it comes to trading. Except maybe Scotland, where getting enough Tunnocks Tea Cakes and Walkers Shortbread is the big issue. Joking apart, it’s always about serving the needs of your community.