What do you currently do?
I’m currently the CEO for Buyagift Plc. My role is a combination of management, on-going strategy and helping to guide the team as a whole. As we are owned by the French company Smart&Co, I also spend a certain amount of time liaising with our parent company evaluating key concerns and opportunities presented to Buyagift Plc and the group as a whole. My direct reports include the UK Country Manager, our International Development Director and our CFO.
I think one of the key roles from my perspective is trying to ensure that as a business and a team we live by our company values and we focus on achieving our core purpose which is to deliver happiness through amazing gifts and experiences.
What is your inspiration in the business?
Ever since I was young I have always loved giving gifts as they make the recipient happy. I’d much rather give a gift than receive one so I see the happiness this creates. This may be a little cheesy but it’s totally true.
I started this business when my brother bought the domain Buyagift.co.uk and I welcomed the opportunity to work full time in a business that sold gifts that I really consider to be amazing. People are happy when they receive the gift and, in general, delighted when the go on the experience.
From day one, our main aim was to ensure that everyone that came into contact with the company was delighted and ultimately happier as a result of the interaction. Personally, after 13 years in the business, I’d still say that my inspiration hasn’t changed, as a business we want to make people happy. If we have happy staff, happy customers and happy suppliers then we will ultimately have happy shareholders. The things people tend to remember from the years gone by are the experiences in their life so we hope that we help people have more amazing experiences.
Who do you admire?
Richard Branson is high up the list. I love the way he is the face of the brand, he is always happy to roll his sleeves up and do just about anything to help the business flourish. He also focuses heavily on ensuring that his team are happy and well looked after. Also, Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley. She is a British businesswoman and philanthropist who I was fortunate enough to see speak.
Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
There are certainly things I would have done differently. Primarily I would have recruited a Head of HR a little earlier on in our journey. It is vital to ensure that the team are happy and without someone looking after the human resources side of things there is no one to act as a sounding board for team members. The Head of HR also ensure that a higher percentage of the team members we recruit are a good fit for our business.
I would also put standard management practices into place earlier (such as clear objectives and quarterly reviews). These basic tools really do help to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
What defines your way of doing business?
We take a very open and honest approach to business. We really want everyone that comes into contact with Buyagift.com to be happier as a result of the interaction. Whether it be a member of our team being happy with our office atmosphere, a member of the public being delighted with the ease of the web site, the recipient of a gift enjoying the experience they go on, or our suppliers being happy with the business we provide.
As our core purpose states, our aim is “Delivering happiness – amazing people”. When you have over 100 staff, work with over 2,500 suppliers and fulfill over 500,000 gifts a year this is not always easy to do but we certainly try to keep everyone happy.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Be prepared to work very hard as it takes a great deal of effort and commitment to get traction in most cases.
Understand your skills and your weaknesses, play to your skills and recruit to your weaknesses. Invest a lot of time and energy in ensuring you get the right team of people around you. If you make the right recruitment decisions early on then your business is far more likely to succeed. Most of our key managers have been with us for 8 to 10 years and the business would certainly have not been as successful without them. Understand what the core purpose of your business is and be passionate about it.