Steve Baggi, co-founder of Green Park and leader of its Retail and Consumer Practice
- What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Helping retailers understand the impact of digital transformation on the organisational design of their businesses and what that means for the leaders they employ and the retail estate model they follow. It’s all about working with retailers to move from a traditional structure by bringing in the right people at the top who understand the role that technologies such as digital and data analytics is having.
- What is the biggest challenge to your business?
The biggest challenge we face is encouraging retailers to be brave and ambitious in their thinking. It may be that they need to find new leaders by looking at different sectors or individuals outside of retail, because the skills they need are changing very quickly.
- With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
We are two years into our research programme with senior retail leaders and will launch a second major study called The DNA of the Retailers of Tomorrow in 2017. I wish we’d kicked the research programme off sooner so that we had even more benchmarking data to work with – it’s proving to be highly compelling.
- What will the necessary skill-sets of individuals in retail look like in a decade?
The pace of change in technology is lightning fast so while it is safe to say that skill-sets will definitely involve technology know-how, it’s difficult to see exactly what. In any case, retail leaders will have to be more rounded individuals with broader skillsets and work across more functions. Retailers will need more analytical skills at the top and to understand the impact of developments such as driverless deliveries and the new ways in which they need to interact with customers.
- What two bits of advice would you give to CEOs in retail about future-proofing their businesses?
Be braver than you think you need to be. It is without doubt the most difficult time to be a retail CEO at the moment and there is a real need for them to change the way they look at hiring their senior team. The other piece of advice is to be open-minded about where talent comes from – CEOs need to hire people who will challenge the way they do things and are not too much in their own image. I recently attended a focus group with a high street retailer where many of the attendees, young women aged 16 – 18, revealed they hadn’t physically been in the retailer’s store for over a year – despite many of them making regular purchases. The fact that the majority of their purchases were carried out on a smart phone wasn’t shocking to the retailer, however, the little that this age group actually physically visited a high street was unexpected.
- What retail businesses and executives in retail do you admire?
As a consultant at an executive search firm, I speak to excellent retailers every day who are transforming their organisations and the industry as a whole. To name an individual would be unfair, but one brand that has quietly undergone a complete digital transformation over the past few years is Shop Direct. It has successfully transitioned from a traditional catalogue business to a large digital business and made significant investment to secure the organisation’s relevance in the 21st century.
- If you weren’t running Green Park’s Retail Practice, what would you like to do?
As co-founder of Green Park I’m very passionate about how the right leadership can totally transform an organisation for the better and I feel fortunate to be doing my job at a time when the retail sector is moving through such a monumental change. I am lucky to love what I do for a living, however, if I had to change my career and could retrain then I suppose it would be to lead transformation from the inside as a Chief Digital Officer or the person responsible for implementing data and customer loyalty programmes. It’s certainly a required skill set in the new retail landscape.
- What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
I spend my time assessing potential candidates for senior retail roles so I’m not use to assessing myself. However, I am particularly proud of how far Green Park has come as a company and that’s a credit to the hard work of the whole team. In 10 years we have grown from a challenger brand to a serious player in the UK executive recruitment market and remained true to our core vision and values throughout. I’m giving the Green Park team a 10 for achievement so far.
- Who would you place in the Top 25 Retail Movers & Shakers?
My nomination would be Marcus East, Global Digital Director at Marks and Spencer.
This is one in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with individuals that are featured in the annual ‘Retail Insider Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report.