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Management meets Simon Bullen

EMBA alumnus, Simon Bullen, shares his knowledge and experience in the food and drink manufacturing industry.

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Simon Bullen, EMBA alumnus

To me, ambition is never giving up. When I started my master's, a friend I met on the course helped me set out a short-term life plan, drawing out my professional and personal priorities for the future. At the time my goal was to have my first child, and now she is 21.

It’s the same with your career. My advice is, if you have a vision of what will make you happy, don’t give up on getting there.

When I started the Executive part-time MBA (EMBA), I was working for Twinings Tea as European Commercial Manager and wanted to climb the ladder a bit more. In all honestly, I thought having a business degree would be a great way to prove to people that I was intelligent!

But it worked - it made me more reputable to global employers. After graduating, I started consulting for SCQuARE International and moved on to Commercial Director for Standard Brands LTD, a private equity backed consumer goods business.

'If you have a vision of what will make you happy, don’t give up on getting there'

My career aim has always been to have financial and professional independence. I’ve managed to achieve this through becoming a consultant and founding my own export company, The Export Partners, serving the food and drink industry.

The food and drink sector is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, representing 20% of all manufacturing.

Acting as an adviser to industries representative body, The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) for several years, I was able to use and grow my expertise to stimulate export growth among UK businesses.

There are around 468,000 employees in the industry. Many work for small to medium sized enterprises who don't export but could, because they have innovative products, which other countries want. This is why I saw a gap in the market for The Export Partners.

'Networking events are great places to meet people'

I’ve learnt a lot as a founder, such as how much time it takes to prospect for business. I’d say finding work takes up more time than doing it. But it’s a better way of working for me; I never really fitted in as a cog in a bigger wheel. Even though it is extremely hard work, I enjoy being an entrepreneur.

Making the most of the opportunities the University has to offer is helping with this. Networking events are great places to meet people. At the moment, I'm talking to a potential client I met at a trade show.

When finding work, it also helps to understand market trends. For example, premium adult soft drinks are growing in popularity, which is good to keep in mind when looking for prospective clients.

My time at the School of Management opened so many doors for me, notes from my lectures still come in handy today!

Now, every day is different, and I have full control over the work I do. I’m excited to see what project is around the corner.

Stats are correct as to the FDF fact sheet 6 July 2022

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