Talking Shop

Talking Shop

David Worby

David_Worby

Biggest career break
Having started as a retail trainee at M&S (far too many years ago to remember) there have been a great number of breaks, but I think the one that made the biggest difference to my career was being handed the digital baton by Michael Sharp way back in 2003. He believed in the concept of online retail and had the faith to back my belief in the future, which led to the success that now is Debenhams Direct.

Best career advice
I’ve worked for a number of the ‘original’ retail heavyweights in the 80’s and 90’s, there was never a real shortage of advice, but the one piece that has stuck with me is that communication should be focused, consistent and honest.

What skills do you look for in new recruits
A lot of this depends upon the function and seniority of the role, however most candidates need to show a progressive leadership attitude. If you can find this in someone who operates in a collegiate and collaborate way you may well have the makings of a future star.

Favourite wardrobe item
I’ve worked in fashion for over 20 years this is a tough one, but I’m a sucker for a good pair of shoes and fine knitwear, so anything from John Smedley or Officine Creative is going to keep me very happy.

When I’m not working I like to……
….tinker! I’ve got something of a schoolboy passion for classic cars, so you’ll often find me messing about under the hood of my 1960’s Triumph – or enjoying it out on the open road, just before it breaks down again!

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Jon Knight CEO at Al Khayyat Investment Group

Jon_Knight

What was your biggest career break?

Becoming one of four newly appointed General Managers looking after one of M&S’s most important flagship stores. The store I became General Manager of was M&S at Bluewater in Kent – the store was number two in the company for annual sales turnover with only the Marble Arch store in Central London generating more revenue.

With nearly 300 colleagues, including 20 plus managers, covering a trading area of over 140K sq.ft, in one of the worlds most visited shopping malls – the ability to think concisely, effectively and quickly was imperative. Operating as the head of a large team of colleagues drew upon a vast range of disciplines and emotions. Always showing a strong level of leadership whilst acting fairly, collaboratively, quickly and decisively allowed me to maintain a strong level of morale and motivation throughout the team. In turn, the sales and standards of operation excelled and exceeded. Being General Manager at Bluewater most definitely helped me to develop skills which have been essential in my career ever since.

What’s the best career advice you have been given?

To always treat people how you want to be treated yourself and to always maintain a high standard of personal and professional integrity.

What skills do you look for in new recruits?

Flexibility, energy, enthusiasm and drive. Anything can be taught to a person who has these four attributes: –

• F lexibility allows learning without compromise

• E nergy delivers pace and determination

• E nthusiasm enables change and success

• D rive delivers motivation and momentum

What prompted your move to an international role?

Whilst at M&S I was given a fabulous opportunity to work internationally looking after the franchise division across the EMEA region.

I found that through working overseas, with a very different and diverse range of businesses, skills and competencies that I could make a real difference to how the M&S international franchise businesses could operate. There was always an appetite from the international franchise partners to learn from the domestic business operating in London and throughout the UK and for best practices to be established within their own businesses.

I wanted to widen this experience and develop myself through working exclusively in one of the most fascinating, dynamic and culturally sensitive markets that there is in global retailing – the Middle East. And, in 2011 after 10 years with M&S, I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to develop these skills further by living and working in the region.

What have you learnt from working overseas?

That the Retail industry operates in one guise or another in every continent, country, city, town and village around the world and whilst the transaction is completed in similar ways by providing a customer with goods and services, the journey to the completion of any transaction can be very different.

There are many cultural, social, legal and operational nuances in every market and the ability to adapt, apply and optimise these differences is the key to future success.

What has been the most challenging aspect of an international role?

Learning a different culture and way of working/living. As an Ex-Patriot worker I believe my family and I have an obligation to learn, understand and appreciate the different cultures, laws and appropriateness that the host country has to offer and expect.

What is your favourite wardrobe item?

My blue linen blazer as I can wear it casually or formally and it always looks good (I think!)

When I’m not working I like too…

Primarily to spend quality time with my family.I also like to stay fit by regularly cycling, running, going to the gym, and swimming.

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Jo McWilliams

JoMcWilliams

What was your biggest career break?

My biggest break into retail was starting out as a retail trainee at Debenhams Oxford Street and learning the very important basics throughout back and front of house. My ultimate break was to achieve full ownership for retail as operations director at New Look. Having worked at all levels of retail I really value the time spent working my way up as you can relate back and have empathy with the contribution all the roles play to achieve the goals and deliver success.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

In the ever changing and complex world of retail and business, the best advice I was given was to keep things simple! People do just want to buy great products with great service and often with businesses striving to be the better than the rest there is a tendency to over complicate things. The consumer wants fantastic products, as fast as possible, delivered in the most convenient way to meet their needs – “simples”!

What skills do you look for in new recruits?

Retail is very adaptable and can accommodate many differing skill sets, however having the right attitude and behaviour is critical. It’s a people business so to love being with people and get enjoyment through meeting their needs is non-negotiable, along with a good helping of common sense and realism.

What’s your favourite wardrobe item?

This would have to be my boots! I have lots of pairs in an assortment of colours and fabrics. Whilst I do love the summer I look forward to winter when it’s time to put the boots back on! They can always be relied to finish any outfit off along with being so comfortable too, important when dashing around a lot!

When I’m not working I like to…..

I have a passion for animals and love spending time with them, it may be walking my two dogs (fondly known as the girls!), or being out in the fields with our three retired horses.

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Paul Denham

Paul_Denham

What was your biggest career break?

Oddly my biggest career break was when I took a break in my career. In my mid-thirties I went travelling for a couple of years, saw some amazing things, met some incredible people and took time to reflect on what was important to me in life, love and career. Not recommended for everyone, but it worked for me!

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

Not sure if I was told this or simply have always believed it……. ”Listen to your head, but follow your heart.”

What’s your top interview tip?

Make sure you have some time before you walk in to focus on the meeting and be clear about your objectives. What is the headline message you want to deliver, what are the three main ‘proofs’ and three main skills from your CV that underpin your suitability for the role. Breathe deeply and stand tall!

What skills do you look for in new recruits?

It’s not rocket science, the right experience should be a given, but enthusiasm, character and potential are priceless.

What’s your favourite wardrobe item?

I have an old Timberland shoulder bag which I bought in Boston about twenty years ago. It has seen the world, sat in board rooms, held nappies, and done service as a laptop case. It is undoubtedly on its last legs, but as it has earned the title ‘old friend’ it will hard to say goodbye when the time comes.

When I’m not working I like to…..

Travel. One of the best sources of education, inspiration and relaxation I know. Also, and it’s a cliche I know, spending time with my wife and children brings me immense joy. Cooking and sharing a glass of wine with Emma, or walking on the beach with her and our children India, Eliza and Charlie. Life doesn’t get any better.

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Shaun Wills

shaun-wills

What was your biggest career break?

Getting the chance to work on the project taking New Look into private equity hands gave me my first experience of working with PE houses, great exposure to the mechanics of a deal of that size, and the opportunity to work closely with and develop
a strong relationship with Phil Wrigley, our CEO at the time and one of the most well-respected retailers in the UK. The success of that project led to me being appointed to my first board role and was, in hindsight, a real springboard.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

A life coach once told me that many people who are promoted quickly, and accountants in particular, tend to cling on to what they knew and did well in their old role and work at a level that is generally below their current status. I looked around and realised he had a point and he advised me to try putting myself in the mind of my boss and his peers and try to think and behave in a way that showed that I was keen to work at their level. It wasn’t easy but the end result had a transformational effect on my style.

What’s your top interview tip?

It’s a cliché, but I absolutely believe you should be yourself. Celebrate your strengths but be open about your weaknesses. Potential employers are buying into your genuine skills and your personality and there is nothing more disappointing than finding out that someone presented a persona at the interview and cannot deliver some of the things promised.

What skills do you look for in new recruits?

Naturally in my field, I value intelligence, numeracy, reliability and honesty, together with strong commercial skills and the ability to work harmoniously across business units. Finance personnel can add real value to a business if the way they communicate and influence is effective. My pet hate is when finance people write a spreadsheet and email it without helping the recipients to understand and act upon the key data.

What’s your favourite wardrobe item?

Working in retail means I can adopt a fairly relaxed dress-style, so you’ll often find me in a pair of smart, dark Hugo Boss jeans. I’m not a label freak, but they are one of the few menswear brands that do ‘proper’ fits (short legs and generous waists!!!).

When I’m not working I like to…..

I’m an avid Bath and England rugby follower and more recently I’ve developed a passion for cycling. I got the bug after taking part in a charity ride from Weymouth to Paris. What started as 6 guys cycling for fun has turned into an annual charity event which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for our nominated charities. If you ever see a peleton of cyclists passing you by with one guy in the middle who really doesn’t look like he should be on a bike, that’s probably us…!

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Richard Sims

Richardsim

What was your biggest career break?

My biggest break was also my worst moment I was made redundant by a company when I was 26 and had just got married and brought a new house , It taught me a lot about work and life. From thinking that I had a right to a good job i learnt that I had to earn it every day. From that day it made me step up a few gears.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

Always set the best example you can.

What’s your top interview tip?

Do your research thoroughly, understand the company and the role you are applying for.

If you are clear about these then you can focus your discussions in an interview in the right way.

What skills do you look for in new recruits?

Great listening and communications skills.

What’s your favourite wardrobe item?

Its very boring, a blue blazer that I had made several years ago, it was expensive but it fits well and its great quality . When I’m travelling its a fantastically practical item and helps me travel light, you can wear it for a smart business day and it’s then great for the times when you get an invite to a function and you are required to wear that horrible phrase “smart casual”.

When I’m not working I like to…..

I have two passions outside work apart from my family, Southampton FC and golf . Both cause me deep frustration and on rare occasions great pleasure!

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David Miller

What was your biggest career break?

Taking the Job of General Merchandise Manager for Harrods back in 2005. I consulted widely with my contacts about whether I should take the job or not as it was clear at the time that Harrods had a distinct and unique culture. Everyone I spoketo was categorical in their opinion that this was not the company for me. I am glad I did not listen to them as the rest as they say is history and I had the best 8.5 years of my life working there.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

Manage your own career and don’t ever believe that others will do it for you.

What’s your top interview tip?

Do your research beforehand and find out everything you can about the company and the person interviewing you. The internet is such a great help in finding all kinds of information that 20 years ago would have been impossible to do – so use it!

What skills do you look for in new recruits?

Personality and company fit are the most important qualities I look for in a first interview. I take it for granted that candidates that are put in front of me posess the technical skills to do the job. What I am looking for is how they will do it, how they will fit into the wider team and work with others.

What’s your favourite wardrobe item?

A blue bespoke hand-made suit from The Cad & The Dandy of Saville Row. It cost a small fortune but there is nothing like the feeling of wearing something that has been made to fit you like a glove. It really does boost your confidence by an extra 10%.

When I’m not working I like to….. Cook!

Food is my passion. Having been a buyer practically all my working life I have been lucky enough to travel the world and experience different cuisines that many other people would never get the chance to. I am never happier than spending time at home cooking for myself and/ or others and yes it does always seem to taste better accompanied by a glass or two of wine!

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