Distributor's COO opens up over which type of commuter he 'despises' and what he would change about his firm
How do you typically start a working day?
Six shots of espresso and a smoke - at a Starbucks or closest good coffee shop - gets me going and I can begin work from as early as 5:30am. With Exclusive now running offices between Auckland and San Jose and every continent in between, I find myself either closing down emails and conversations in the US or opening up conversations from the guys ahead of me in Singapore or ANZ. It's a good way to start the day as someone is always awake somewhere and it gives me time to think before the phone starts ringing.
How long is your commute and what do you do during it?
It's a minimum two-hour commute for me, either to the airport or central London, as despite the expanse of the role and geography I've still managed to stay and live in Wales. The train is ideal. I can work on it (usually on the 5:30 from Newport) and as above, I can clear stuff away before getting to the office. I hit Paddington at 7:20am and can be in the City office before 8am - I love being in early. Commuters are a strange breed, but I despise the Brompton cyclists. They seem to have an air of arrogance about them and they look down their nose at you as they remove their sweat-ridden hi-vis clothes and fold their bike neatly away, sit down to a their Tuppaware-prepared muesli and banana… it makes my blood boil.
What is your attitude to flexible working in your company?
Work is a thing you do, not a place you go. We ask a lot of our people and respect that immensely - we're a very distributed company and a group especially. Although the main back office is in Paris and the front office is in London, group people are based in more than five countries and three continents so home or remote working is essential.
When [getting staff to] end the month and process orders up until midnight, or travel on a Saturday or Sunday to attend a vendor event somewhere, you must be appreciative of your most important assets - your people - hence why we give everyone in the company their birthday off and have things like ‘duvet days' (or ‘recharge days' as we call them in some countries). I do not sign off half-day holidays - if you need half a day, take it. It stops people pulling sickies, but more importantly, it's a demonstration of how much we love our people.
What would your colleagues say is your worst habit?
Apart from smoking, probably ‘over presenting' - my philosophy is why say 10 words when 10,000 will do! Seriously though, I'm very enthusiastic about what we're trying do and the journey we're on. Our story is unique and I love telling it, so bite me!
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
It would be our move away from exclusivity with our vendors. As the name suggests, we aspire to exclusivity, but we have regretfully relinquished it when vendors have wanted to appoint another distie - for fear of losing business. Ironically, we have seen the greatest growth and success where we have maintained exclusivity. We share the same ambitions and have a greater impact together in the market, so I would definitely be more inflexible and daring; fighting vendors harder to maintain exclusivity.
Also, without wanting to hang our dirty washing in public, I would change some of our internal attitude to value. It annoys me when my colleagues and I pitch ‘Mars' and we only deliver the moon, but our philosophy is that business is a "river, not a lake" and we are continually addressing this through our ATLAS business transformation process - and improving our customer experience where it is identified as not meeting our high expectations.
What do you do for the bulk of a typical day?
Sell. Let's not forget, no matter how we label this business, we are traders. We buy and sell with varying amounts of assistance wrapped around it, whether it's horse trading with a vendor to get additional terms or discounts, wooing a large global systems integrator to give us a global contract, or convincing our people to sell on value not cost - or about the merits of a new vendor or internal programme - I'm ABC: always be closing (and anything but Cisco, of course!). It starts at 5am with our Far Eastern and ANZ guys and finishes at 10pm with our guys in California.
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
When travelling I'm conscious of how unhealthy my lifestyle could be so I almost always finish with a 10km run or 1km swim - or both sometimes. When at home it's pretty much the same although in the summer I like a round of golf. Every day ends pretty much as I started it though, with a coffee and a smoke, and it always has to be Family Guy on the TV.