I clock Paul Wishart before he spots me.

We are due to meet in one of his competitor's pubs, ahead of a day out in trade to see how the Business Development Manager (BDM) of the Year operates.

Before we've even said hello I get an initial impression.

When he arrives he looks across the bar and then paces around the room. I vainly assume he is looking for me. He's not, as he tells me when I introduce myself, he is taking the chance to see what another pub on his patch is up to.

It's why he arrived half an hour early.

Knowing what's going on in your area – he covers Glasgow, Edinburgh and the bits in between for Greene King - is just a small part of one of trickiest jobs in the trade. You also have to be that bridge between licensee and pubco, you need to be a sounding board, an idea generator, somebody capable of being creative and, at times, tough.

So what does Paul, who has more than 10 years' experience in the role, think are important attributes?

"You have got to be honest with people and tell them what you can and can't do. If you can't do what they want you need to explain why. The relationship has to be about shared interests and working together professionally.

"Also, never blame anything on your company because from the licensee perspective you are the pubco or least the first point of contact."

From a practical point of view this means he arranges appointments to see his business partners - Greene King are one of a number of pubcos to move away from terms such as tenants - every four to six weeks. Three or four days will be on the road and in pubs and the other will be an admin day with the occasional head office duties thrown in.

Most BDMs split their pubs into thirds: the best, the reasonable to good, and those who will be finding things tougher.

However, Paul insists it is important to spend time with those who may not obviously need as much support.

"I speak to the guys at the top just as much because there is always more you can do and because I can also learn so much from the way they operate."

One such person is Andrena Smith-Bowes, she runs six pubs in Scotland, four of which are with Paul and Greene King.

 

 

One of these, The Terrace in Corstorphine, Edinburgh has been transformed from being a wet-led boozer with dingy rooms into an open plan pub with contemporary design, craft beer and food now comprising 30 per cent of sales.

Andrena tells Inapub how it has become a place where all ages meet. It has been future-proofed and she is not shy in giving Paul credit.

"When he entered the BDM of the Year it was obvious to us he would win. He is so good. His phone is never off and he is always available," she says.

 

 

Another major project last year saw The Elizabethan in Dunfermline reborn. It was a sports pub popular mainly with football fans but is now a welcoming community pub with food, wine and coffee as important as beer.

Although the pub is trading significantly better, Paul complains that the men's toilets should have been given more attention and that the coffee machine isn't in precisely the right location.

Perhaps it is this attention to detail that has helped him become BDM of the Year.

Organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) the award is considered to have one of the most rigorous judging processes in the industry. Previous winners have gone on to great things, including Stonegate's managing director Simon Longbottom, the first ever BDM of the year back in 1996.

So what does the lad from Kirkcaldy who started as a glass collector make of it all?

"When I was starting out I always wanted to be an area manager. At first it was a status thing but now it isn't that at all. I want to help develop and grow businesses.

"The biggest challenge is people and finding the right ones to work with. I am not an expert in anything but I can do a lot of different things."

Now there's a sentiment that could equally apply to being a licensee, perhaps that is why Paul and pubs work so well together?

 

 

Paul Wishart CV

November 2016: Wins ALMR BDM of the Year
June 2015: Joins Spirit which is almost immediately taken over by Greene King
2007-15: Senior BDM with Iona
2002-2007: Area manager with Belhaven
1994-2002: General manager Dean Entertainments