Pulling the strings at the John Lewis Partnership
Published: 26 Apr 2012 By Xavier Martin
Profile of a Commercial Director
We are thankful to Xavier Martin, director of leading marketing, communications & digital recruitment specialist, EMR, for allowing us to post this insightful interview with John Brady, commercial director of John Lewis Partnership.
1. What is your role and who do you work for?
Commercial Director for John Lewis Insurance, which includes running the Partnership’s credit card.
2. Tell us about the company: size, sector, location’s etc.
The John Lewis Partnership had a retail turnover of just over £8.7bn last year. The insurance division is a rapidly growing part of the business and is an area of key strategic importance for John Lewis.
3. How has your career changed over the last year?
The last year has seen significant change – we’ve been busy concluding the rebrand from Greenbee to John Lewis Insurance – strategically a big move for the business as well as raising the profile of the insurance arm in the wider John Lewis Partnership. John Lewis is such a unique brand – everyone loves the business and as a result whatever we offer in the insurance space needs to stand up to the high expectations of the John Lewis customer.
4. What are the three most important skills you use at work?
Communication is the most important. Whatever I want to achieve it is very rarely in isolation and there is nearly always an audience of some shape and size that needs addressing. Problem solving is a daily exercise too. With good people around me this is made much easier. Thirdly, it is bringing clarity to team objectives and providing drive to make sure they are achieved.
5. What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical format to my days – they can vary so much. But there are some consistent themes to my working day and week. I’ll work closely with key insurance, card product and marketing teams to ensure our offer remains compelling and in line with the expectations of our customers. Keeping an eye on the customer proposition is key for retailers and, being part of a retailer, our business unit is expected to do the same. The other key theme is to stay in control of the business in terms of our marketing, business numbers and commercial relationships, whether that’s on the insurance side or the partnership card. In terms of style I personally prefer face-to-face discussions to ensure the team are receiving a consistent message but this can take up quite a lot of time. When this is done my own thinking coupled with media enquiries tends to fill the day!
6. What is the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you tackle it?
A couple of years ago business performance against budget was a little testing. I was able to resolve this by tackling key issues head on, assessing all options open to us and then taking a calculated risk, in this instance, by trying something different – new marketing channels.
7. How have you got to where you are today in your career?
By taking roles that have given me a broad base of commercial and customer experience – from running marketing teams, developing new products and propositions and taking P&L responsibility in a number of credible organisations. My time at GE Capital certainly gave me a commercial edge and my 6 years at the John Lewis Partnership has brought this into harness with a real focus on the customer.
In general though I would say I have followed my own instincts on what suits my strengths and character best, as well as hard work.
8. What is your career plan for the future?
At the right point in time to run a business unit, moving beyond the commercial role that I have now.
9. What advice would you give to more junior professionals in the industry?
An old boss once said to me “take advice, build plenty of contacts but, above all, trust your own instincts”.