Leap Of Faith

As a child in Greater London, Becky Fleury was independent, smart and focused, but the conventional classroom environment failed to inspire her. Armed with ambition and confidence, Fleury left school at age 16 and set out to find a job. “I had no thought about the type of industry I wanted to work in,” Fleury laughs. “I only knew that I wanted to work in an office environment.”

Fleury enrolled in an on-the-job training course that better suited her learning style and career drive. After a few unsuccessful interviews, she met Gill Thorpe, CEO of The Sourcing Team, a promotional merchandise distributor in London. “Honestly, I had no skills to contribute, but she took a chance on me because she liked my smile and personality. That was the kick-start to my career,” she says. Fleury started as an office junior, an entry-level position that included filing and general administrative duties.

Once employed, Fleury could appreciate the practical application of education in her future success. She studied business administration and later earned her diploma from the Institute of Sales Promotion, now the Institute of Promotional Marketing. As she proved herself, her responsibilities were expanded, and she was exposed to the intricacies of purchase orders, sales and liaising with suppliers. Today she is the company’s client service director.

Fleury sees her humble career beginnings as an advantage. “Having been with the business for 21 years, I have worked in every role, including corporate finance. I would never ask anyone to do anything that I haven’t done or wouldn’t do. Knowing the industry and business from all aspects and departments has given me unique insight and knowledge, and expertise that has contributed to my highly specialized approach to client service.”

What drew you to The Sourcing Team and what has kept you there for 21 years?
Gill believed in me and gave me the opportunity to grow and develop, both personally and professionally. It is very rare to meet someone who becomes your mentor so early in your career, and her influence in my life cannot be overstated. Gill is now a colleague and a friend, and she continues to support me as I develop additional expertise in our business and within the wider industry.

What are your responsibilities as client service director?
My responsibilities cover a number of essential duties: client brand guardianship, product compliance, and supply chain management, including auditing assessments. And, of course, working closely with and adding value to our amazing clients. As a director, I have visibility across all operations.

The Sourcing Team is known as a leader in product safety in Europe. In what ways are you involved and what does the company do to gain such a reputation?
Product safety and compliance is an area of responsibility where I have focused much of my energy and accumulated extensive knowledge and insights. I provide product compliance consulting to our clients to mitigate risk for their brands and reputations. With over two decades working with marketing agencies and fast-moving consumer goods clients such as Unilever and Mars, we are held to some of the highest ethical and product safety standards, and we consistently deliver within those guidelines.

We are also required to demonstrate compliance on products and factories through certification and transparency. We never take certification at face value—for over 15 years we have been asking our suppliers for validation and product safety certificates. We are always told, “You are the only company that asks for this; why do you need it? Our products are okay for major distributors.” But we want to be the best and engage with our clients with openness and conviction. We truly embrace the learning and it is embedded across our whole business. We have pushed the boundaries over the years, which has led to our reputation today.

Tell me about the green initiatives you’ve put into place. How do these affect your business and clients?
At The Sourcing Team, we all participate in key initiatives. Our Green Team does amazing work keeping us on track to continuously improve our sustainability commitment. Our approach is highly innovative, and this is reflected in the quality of our due diligence processes and our dedication to best practices up and down the supply chain. Today it is critical that corporations and non-profits work with partners that really care and add value, and I believe that’s what we do.

The results are impressive, and our continuous improvement methodology wins us awards and helps us maintain our high sustainability certification. Earlier this year we were recognized with a Sustainability Award by EcoVadis, giving us a Category Award for Best Corporate Social Responsibility performance in Wholesale/Tertiary Services.

What work accomplishments are you proudest of over the past 21 years?
Some of our work is confidential due to the sensitive nature of the material, and there are several fantastic projects and merchandise that unfortunately I am not able to detail. We have successfully delivered client strategies and campaigns with complex requirements for global brands such as Mars, Disney, HSBC, Unilever, Oxfam and Macmillan, to mention but a few. From sex awareness and health education to product launches, educational campaigns, and merchandise for children, adults, corporations and employees—I love my job and am proud of every initiative.

What advice do you have for newcomers to the promotional products industry?
Listen. Ask lots of questions. Take ownership of the project and truly try to understand the production process. All of that helps to build your knowledge base, expertise and confidence with clients.

What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? Ah yes, when I’m not at work you will find me knee-deep with my inspirations: my husband of 18 years, and a strong-headed, gorgeous little man who is four years old. Otherwise, I love cooking, spending time relaxing with friends, and enjoying a good hearty laugh!

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.