A real people person and self-confessed gourmand, Bill Davies has spent his career learning the ropes of retail and food services businesses from factory to plate. But, by his own admission, he wasn’t quite strange enough to join the ranks of “Come Dine With Me” even if he did get to the final auditions.
“My partner says I don’t have a real job. I talk to people all day and I eat food, that’s kind of what my job seems to entail but not really,” says Bill, who works with Famous Brands franchisees to get the right stock and a continuity of supply at a price that matches their menu cycle and ensures their profitability.
Following in the footsteps of his dad, who incidentally in his 70s still works at a major South African retailer, Bill’s career in retail began when he was 16. He was a ‘retail brat’ for many years before then, however, having been apprehended at the tender age of six for peddling out of the shop his father managed on a brand-new tricycle.
“I grew up in retail. I’ve been lucky enough to have exciting roles that have taken me all over the world, most notably my 16 years at Massmart as the West Africa Development Executive, before I moved to Famous Brands where I love the culture, people and my current role,” explains Bill.
FishAways being part of Famous Brands means Bill gets to buy a lot of seafood. “We’re one of the biggest buyers of hake, if not the biggest in South Africa’s food services sector. And while I knew nothing about fish two years’ ago, you get to know a lot about the nuances of seafood, and there are a lot, when you spend time on the ground, going through plants and developing an understanding while speaking to the people within the industries” – something Bill loves to do.
It’s that curiosity and drive to learn that Bill believes is his superpower. “You’ve got to be curious and love learning in my business, from walking the floor at a fish plant in Namibia to visiting a chicken factory in Free State. It’s important to understand where your product comes from.”
As Procurement Executive for Leading Brands at Famous Brands, Bill sits on the periphery of the fishing industry, ensuring quality produce for his customers. “It’s always an education and always interesting,” making work instantly rewarding, says Bill.
But progress comes from taking risks and Bill loses no sleep over pushing the boundaries when needed, admitting that the older he gets, the less he cares about getting credit for getting things done for the right reasons. “I like to say that if you’re not getting into trouble, you’re not trying hard enough. You can never stop evolving and trying to push the boundaries. If you’re not putting yourself out there, then how do you ever move forward?”
Putting yourself out there does not extend to his appetite for seafood, however. Bill admits that he is not an adventurous seafood eater despite his love for food. The exception, FishAways’ franchisees will be glad to hear, are the brand’s popular prawn pops, a firm favourite with South Africans as they turn to fish as a healthier choice.
“There’s definitely greater demand in terms of whole fish basket and people are eating fish at different ends of the market, but very high portion of what we sell is hake. Our customers are becoming increasingly discerning and knowledgeable about what they’re eating and where they’re getting it from,” Bill says.
Fish aside, however, a life passion for Bill is the creation of short documentaries and viewing the industrial sector through a lens. This multi-faceted cook, businessman and retail expert is also a keen commercial photographer.
While photographing construction sites, factories and plants is one aspect of his hobby, capturing the essence of the people who are so intricately involved in the final product that lands on our plates is what truly reflects his love for people.