Talking Shop

Talking Shop

Jon Knight CEO at Al Khayyat Investment Group

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.