At our latest Academy Spotlight webinar for senior leaders, Rosie Hooper, Head of Client Development at Board Intelligence, spoke with Susanne Given, chair of Made.com. Susanne shared her experiences of maintaining agility in a complex market, preparing for IPO, and growing at pace in a larger company. Here are our three key takeaways:
“Companies should ask - are we using our rear-view mirror too much?”
“In the old economy, your experience was useful for predicting trends, and a company could rely on that and stay relatively agile.
But now, unprecedented changes in consumer behaviour mean that it’s harder to predict where the market will go. Agility has taken on a new meaning, and you have to be ready to listen and adapt at any point. To give an example of this type of agility in action, when I was Chair at Push Doctor, it became clear that our consumer model was going to be difficult to execute within the desired time frame — and grow with. At the same time, public healthcare services began to work with third-party providers in the virtual space. There was an opportunity for us to therefore evolve into a B2B model, which we took, and consequently ended up signing a supplier contract with the NHS.
It can be incredibly hard to pivot in this way, especially if you’re the founder of the company. But if you remain fixated on the original idea, and therefore do not constantly check that your proposition is still fit for purpose, you will find it increasingly difficult to win.”
“You can grow at pace if you put people and culture at the forefront.”
“During my time at TK Maxx, we entered the European market after a period of significant growth in the US.
Underpinning this expansion, was an incredibly robust plan for appointing the senior leadership teams. This plan enabled the Managing Director of the UK and Ireland division to step into the European President role, and in turn, I was able to step into the role of Managing Director.
Consequently, we were able to rapidly expand into Europe during the first two years, while maintaining strong growth in our core market, the UK and Ireland. I think this is a prime example of what good succession planning, and in turn, what good growth looks like for a large organisation.
I’ll add that the need for CEOs to be given their full mandate during periods of high growth is very important. And in turn, the CEO needs to be skilled at managing their business through a high calibre team – a high calibre team who will also demand the freedom to excel in their roles and do what they do best with clear responsibility.
What the CEO can and must do during times of change — whether an IPO, a change in business strategy or a complete restructure — is uphold and amplify the values that underpin the company culture and set the tone from the top.”
“An IPO is not for the faint-hearted.”
“At Made.com, our ambitions as a smaller business were very different to those at TK Maxx. We were growing the company from early to mid-stage, and our ambition was to take Made.com public.
But an IPO is not easy to implement; in fact, in the case of Made.com, the journey started five years ago.
Over this time, we’ve undergone management changes, evolved our proposition, regularly pitched to investors, and of course, navigated the unchartered waters of the pandemic. And now, five years on, we have gone public — whilst growing at a CAGR of over 30 per cent along the way.
My advice is to be ready for a rollercoaster – because the IPO market never stays still. Make sure you have a strong team that can not only help you build a future-focused, competitive proposition, but also one that can stand up in front of investors and demonstrate why your proposition will win in your market.”
We’d love to see you at our next virtual event: In Conversation with Ian Stuart, CEO, HSBC UK Bank plc. Ian shares his leadership lessons from the past 18 months, how complex organisations can become more agile, and the big challenges for boards and leadership teams in 2022 and beyond. You’ll also have a chance to put your questions to Ian. You can request your space here.