On Friday 18th June, the Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s Justin King, delivered an inspirational speech to an audience of over 70 business professionals from the West Midlands. In aid of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the event was a partnership between several local organisations; Aston Business School, Conference Aston, Birmingham Post and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
After a short video from Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH), Justin King highlighted the important work of the BCH team and his own personal links to the hospital and the region itself. He then moved onto a presentation which detailed his business plan entitled, ‘Making Sainsbury’s Great Again’, modelled on the original vision and values of Sainsbury’s over 140 years ago. Here Justin outlined how an effective ten-stage journey helped him to make ‘Sainsbury’s Great Again’ and how it can help other businesses to become successful.
1. Listen to colleagues
The hierarchy that exists in most large companies is often responsible for a breakdown of communication between senior decision makers and those staff who work with the customers directly. Sainsbury’s dealt with this by making each individual supermarket paramount to its business strategy which meant frequent store visits, colleague suggestions to which Justin replied personally and even renaming the headquarters the ‘Store Support Centre’.
2. Listen to customers
By asking customers what they want, business is able to gain two things; a to-do list and a clear strategy for success. In a bid to gauge the mindset of Sainsbury’s customers, Justin’s team sent out feedback forms to a million of its most loyal customers. When the results came back (nearly 250,000), new objectives were immediately put into place as well as a clear path of how to achieve them.
3. Learn from the past
...Do not live in it. For Sainsbury’s this meant celebrating its 140th anniversary to boost company morale and reinvent the company values that made it successful in the past. For others this means learning from recent successes and failures and putting them into a modern context.
4. Agree where you stand
Upon joining Sainsbury’s six years ago, Justin described the company as a ‘burning platform’ destined to either sink or swim according to his next move. By acknowledging this, he was able to implement a variety of new and exciting business models which he would not have been able to do in a normal context. Though this was true, Justin still believed in ensuring his colleagues knew where the company was heading, briefing them all ahead of the press.
5. Have clear goals and values
Sainsbury’s is a value-driven organisation and has succeeded because of the staff’s constant efforts to keep it this way. Everyone who works for Sainsbury’s understands the company’s key goals and vision.
6. Employ the right people
A good working relationship with colleagues is essential and your employees and colleagues must share the same goals and vision for your organisation. Sometimes this can mean recruiting people from areas which you may not expect as they can bring a wide range of expertise to the role.
7. Strong leadership and dedicated followship
Everyone in your organisation should know exactly what their role is and what is expected of them. Colleagues should also have a clear idea of who the management team are and what they do. In turn, this will lead to stronger community spirit and improved performance. A sense of accessibility and visibility of the management team is key to this point as colleagues may become despondant of the ‘us and them’ mentality.
8. Admit your mistakes
Successful management will learn from their failures. In fact, sometimes this is an important part of business development. Similarly, too many employees in large organisations try to hide failures from the management team which often leads to an even bigger problem . To combat this, an atmosphere of accessibility and honesty should be put into practice.
Fresh ideas and constant innovation is what drives business forward. Sometimes it is better to think of your organisation as second best to push new ways of engaging customers because ‘thinking first’ can restrict innovation. For Sainsbury’s, being second has been the key agent of change as they constantly bring new ideas into the marketplace to attract and retain loyal customers.
10. Enjoy it
The most important point of all; love your job. The outcome will be motivation, job satisfaction and most likely, success.
A Q&A session was then chaired by Alun Thorne, Editor of the Birmingham Post, where the audience posed questions for Justin on a range of subjects including how to implement change in a public sector organisation, his views on the forthcoming budget cuts and of course, the outcome of the World Cup!