Movers & Shakers Q&A – Doug McCallum, chairman of PhotoBox and Trainline, and non-executive director of Ocado

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1.What is the greatest opportunity for the retail businesses you are involved with?

Offering richer, faster, easier and smarter, as well as more personalised, customer experiences.

2. What is the biggest challenge to these businesses?

Establishing employee value propositions that are compelling to the best talent, with open, transparent, and fun cultures combined with technology platforms that enable fast innovation to delight customers. And to this ‘war for talent’ point, I fear that digital businesses, scarcely less than traditional ones, are prone over time to group-think. Diversity of all kinds needs constant focus and managing, as a key source of competitive advantage. Of course, it only works if you have the right tech and meritocratic culture to empower such a diverse team.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far (career-wise)?

I had to make all my mistakes, and am grateful to have learned from most. Mind you, with hindsight, offloading my Apple shares in ‘94 to decrease my student debt still stings. [They would be worth over 150x the then value].

4. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

In all the businesses I’m involved with, growth in mobile as a proportion of all revenues has continually exceeded expectations and that trend looks only to be accelerating.

5. What [traditional] retail businesses do you admire?

Pret A Manger continues to set the standard in terms of attracting, developing and training people to deliver a remarkably consistent, delightful, on-brand experience.  I just wish their filter coffee was better.

6. If you hadn’t been a retailer/service-provider-to-retail what would you have liked to do?

I’d have enjoyed teaching or entertaining.

7. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

Hardly a month goes by without running into a former team member – ‘my alumni’ – and almost all are delighted to share their (often phenomenal) progress within the digital economy. Those conversations are the yardstick and outweigh any mark I’d give myself.

8. Who would you place in the Multi-channel Movers & Shakers 2016?

Tim Steiner at Ocado, Jody Ford at PhotoBox, and Clare Gilmartin at Trainline are three of the most truly outstanding general managers I’ve ever had the honour of serving with. Their teams are equally remarkable.

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.