What are the biggest challenges facing your sector right now?
In a word – inflation. It’s having a dramatic impact on all costs and whilst Edrington UK operate at the more premium end of the spirits category, with brands that demand a strong price premium – the impact of inflation on many of our customers is starting to bite.
We are seeing quality hospitality operators close, due to spiralling costs across energy, wages and supplies.
These are the same operators that have helped us build premium brands for years and when I see great operators that have traded successfully for decades close – I get worried.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
Quite simply, I treat my team the way I like to be treated. It’s important to me to:
1. Be clear about what we are trying to achieve and make sure their priorities are simple to understand, clearly linked to our business goals and limited to two or three at any given time.
2. Invest time, money and energy in improving team engagement. We consistently track engagement, action plan the results, and we are honest about what we will and will not do – then celebrate progress.
3. Create an ongoing two-way dialogue with your team. During lockdown I started a weekly update where I provided business updates and answered any questions, which proved very popular. My intension was to stop it once we transitioned back to (some kind of) normality, but the feedback from the team was that they wanted to retain it, so I have. Not only does it give everyone a voice, but it’s two-way, relatively informal and a great way to celebrate and recognise colleagues in a natural and collective way.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
I don’t think I have one person or a traditional global business leader… instead, I’ve always been inspired by leaders who are prepared to set a tone from the top and lead by example based on kindness, humility and curiosity.
How do you generate great ideas in your organisation?
Simple! Ask your team. Give them the time and resources to solve problems and generate great ideas.
An example of this was during lockdown when the George Floyd incident and the Black Lives Matter movement gained worldwide prominence. The last thing I was expecting (on my weekly call with all colleagues) was a question about me and what our business could do to support BLM cause. I was stopped in my tracks! I didn’t know what to do. So instead of making up a superficial response, I suggested we put the question to our team and ‘start the conversation’.
From that, our Diversity and Inclusion team was created, and they have been at the heart of our DE&I initiatives ever since. I’m really proud of the creativity, ideas and the accomplishments achieved by the team so far.
What’s the most important risk you took and why?
Probably leaving the spirits business, albeit for only six months, back in 2007. It helped me realise just how great the spirits industry is and how lucky I am to work in it.
What are the most important traits to look for when you're hiring?
Attitude! We are lucky, we don’t save lives or send people up in aeroplanes, we simply sell and market amazing spirit brands. If we mess up, we don’t cost lives. Therefore, for me, almost everything we do can be coached and trained or taught, but a person’s attitude to their work, their colleagues and their development is critical.
I look for curiosity, humility and bravery.
Talk to Denholm
If you’d like to speak to us about your journey to leadership, growing your team, or even switching careers, please get in touch on 03303 359 818 today. Thank you.