He wants to build a highly successful business across Europe over the next year or so. He is very impressed by the Portuguese business and strongly supports Peter Drucker´s principle: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Meet the new COO of Advantage Smollan Limited, Laurence Clube.
When, how and why did you join ASL/Smollan?
I worked for the first twenty years of my career in a variety of sales, marketing and buying roles in a number of companies; ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] Dulux paints, Guinness, Diageo and lastly at Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s leading grocery retailers.
About ten years ago, I left Sainsbury’s to find a role that really broadened my experience. As a consequence I joined REL Field Marketing in the UK, which is similar to SelPlus.
I was MD of REL for six years through to 2013. In 2013, I became the CEO of The Blueprint Group. REL, as well as three other businesses in the UK and five in Australia, were part of the Group. I was lucky enough to move to Sydney, Australia with the role and whilst there we sold three of the UK businesses; REL, Powerforce and Retail Active to Advantage Smollan and I ended up nine months later, at the start of 2016, coming back to Europe to join Advantage Smollan.
Based on your experience, what can you tell us about the Group values, culture and goals?
We are building a business with scale and presence across Europe offering a wide range of innovative sales and marketing solutions to our customers, both retailers and consumer product groups. Our key goal will be to drive significant and market leading growth and to make that happen we need to focus on a few key things, including building a highly engaged team and highly satisfied customers. Without those two things we won’t win!
In terms of culture and values, I think there are three things:
- Firstly, I want us to work hard at creating a business that all of us love being part of – to make it a great place to work;
- Secondly, we have to be absolutely focused on delighting and amazing our customers in everything we do, every day;
- Thirdly, I want us all to have a relentless drive to do things better than yesterday and innovate and constantly improve as a consequence.
Building a truly great place to work is at the heart of everything in my view. If you imagine a world where each of us feel very proud of the business we work in, feel very connected to it and are getting the personal growth we want, then I suspect our customer service and ambitious growth aspirations would take care of themselves! Whilst we absolutely do need a plan that everyone buys into, as Peter Drucker says; “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”!
Isn’t it difficult for you? I mean, you work in so many different countries, different nationalities and different national cultures…
I have some experience working internationally but I am absolutely learning and will undoubtedly get it wrong often! Ultimately, I want us to come together around the values and culture I just talked about.
In your opinion, what will be the major Seldata and SelPlus contribution to the ASL strategic development and growth?
I expect the businesses to grow and contribute financially. There will also be talented people who will be able to contribute more broadly across Advantage Smollan. Finally, there are things that these businesses do that will provide best practice for other businesses in the Group.
Really? Like what?
The creation of Seldata as a separate entity to Selplus. The UK businesses are going to copy it and create a Brand to sell all the technology and Business Intelligence capability in that market
How do you foresee ASL business development across Europe within the next five years?
There will be a lot! We will develop in two ways: firstly, to broaden our international footprint and presence across Europe. Secondly, to broaden our capabilities and offer. As a result I would expect us to work increasingly with customers across markets and alongside our owners, Advantage and Smollan, be able to work with customers globally.
Could be. The customer relationship could start anywhere. It might come from the Advantage business in the US or The Smollan business in one of their markets outside of Europe.
May the Portuguese team have your advice about how to succeed in business according to the ASL principles, how can they improve?
Do you mean as leaders or as everybody?
I think everybody because they are now looking up to you and they want to learn from you.
I’d have to say to take ownership. Taking ownership, to my mind, is to do the best you can, to do everything you can to delight our customers, to support and help each other, to help fix things you see that are wrong, to speak up, to do what you say you will, to and to grab hold of opportunities you see. And finally to take ownership of your own personal development.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the picture of a country road where somebody has drawn a white line to show the edge of the road? The picture shows the white line drawn along the side until it comes to a fallen branch. Instead of moving the branch and doing the job properly, the white line is drawn around the fallen branch. That’s one of the things I’m talking about – take ownership to move the branches or the problems so we can all do a great job for our customers and each other.Our leaders across the business need to really help make this happen.
Can you describe the Portuguese companies’ “way of working” in just a brief sentence?
As you know I’m really only meeting the guys for the first time today. I can already see a professionalism and real passion for the business. I can see people who are open to new ideas, excited about the future in Advantage Smollan and who put customers first. Which is all great! I can also see an openness and integrity in the leaders I’ve spent time with today which is really important.
If you could describe in a brief sentence ASL’s “way of working”, would it be more or less the same?
Absolutely. As I said before it’s about building a great place to work, being very customer focused and working together on getting better at what we do. I can see these things living in the Portuguese businesses already