Celebrating 40 Years with Durham Branch Manager, John Lambie!

July 13th, 2023

Congratulations to John Lambie, Durham Branch Manager, who reached his 40-year milestone earlier this year! Here we find out how his passion for the job and building relationships with customers is what has kept him going and still makes him enjoy his work.

How does it feel to have reached such a significant milestone?

I can't believe that it's been 40 years already. Where has the time gone? To be honest I hadn't really thought too much about it. But when you hear 40 years mentioned, it sort of puts it into perspective and I feel quite proud!

How did you get into the paint and wallpaper industry?

My first job was long distance driving, travelling the whole of the UK and into Europe, and seeing some amazing places. But that business folded so in 1983, I managed to clinch an interview for a trade counter assistant at a local decorators merchants in Sunderland – Fred Williamson's & Sons Ltd. 

I had an interview on the Friday and started work the following Monday. I remember my very first customer coming into the store and asking for a one litre can of white gloss. Embarrassingly, I had to ask my new boss what size a litre can was! But as the weeks and months passed, I became totally addicted to the job.

What’s kept you working in this career for so many years?

Mainly because I enjoy what I do and am totally committed. There are never two days alike, as every single customer is an individual, and for me it's always been and will always be about people, and not just wallpaper and paint etc. I've done it for so long now, it's become second nature building strong and long-lasting relationships with staff and customers alike. 

I see us as being one big happy family as in Team Durham, Team North and Team Brewers. 

If we have any issues at any time about anything, there is always a cheerful and helpful voice on the other end of the phone to offer advice no matter what. Despite my many years of experience I can honestly say that I am still guaranteed to learn something new every day.

What has been your biggest achievement?

In 2006, I was given the responsibility of getting the Durham Branch up and running which took a lot of effort. We also had to source new business from scratch, with very little customer migration from other branches so we spent ages on the phone, doing leaflet drops and advertising etc. and then growing a robust customer base. Nice to see that some of these customers still come in regularly. In 2018, Durham Branch became part of a seven branch acquisition by Brewers which has been a fantastic move.

You must have seen lots of changes over the years?

I've seen so many changes since I started. Many things that we now take for granted just weren't around. The only colours available to customers were off the shelf. We had one tinting machine which was much more manual than automatic. We had to use scales and weights to measure the amount of colourant that was required for specific colours. It could take 20 minutes or more to mix a one litre tin (the only size available), and then a microfiche and film was used to read the formula.

So, are you still enjoying the job?

Yes, very much! Meeting customers new and old on a day-to-day basis is what keeps me going. Also having a great team working with me is a pleasure. I must admit, I'm looking forward to my retirement when it comes, but I could very easily change my mind before then!

How have you celebrated your achievement?

Our Regional Manager, Joanne Lathan, along with Regional Operations Manager Jamie Clear took me out for a meal, along with my wife, my team from Durham Branch and also several colleagues from my many years working at Sunderland Branch, which was a lovely gesture. And a lot of our customers did congratulate me personally which was nice! 

And lastly, what’s the strangest customer request you have had?!

Many years ago, a young lady came into the branch one day and asked if we sold the expensive heavy duty paste tables. I said yes, we do. 

Customer: Can I have a look at one please, and can you build it for me? 

Me: Yes, no problem, I will go and get one

Customer: Can I sit on it to see how sturdy it is? 

Me: Yes (thinking this is a bit strange!) 

Customer: Can I just lie on it? 

Me: Yes, but I will have to hold it as well, to make sure it doesn't collapse (even more strange!)

Customer: That's absolutely fine. How many have you got in stock? 

Me: Seven 

Customer: I'll take six please and might come back for the other one

Me: Can I ask why you would need six paste tables?

Customer: I'm going to have them converted into massage tables!