A highly successful charity, F4S had helped over 300,000 school children learn about the world of work by sourcing thousands of professionals willing to give their time in schools, and the founder was convinced its good work could be extended into the workplace through a spin-out work experience product, but the team just couldn’t seem to get the MVP out the door.
I secured the appointment of a product owner, somewhat unpopularly forced the release of the product as defined, limited tech support queries to designated communication links, and supported the team in launching scrum.
Quality of communication improved. Cultural issues diminished. The dev team used every bit of free capacity to reduce tech debt, remove architectural risk, and simplify user journeys.
In late summer 2019, Workfinder and its new product spun out into a separate entity and the two organisations were free to pursue their own strategic directions.
A teammate from two prior start-ups told me about a new business he was putting together with experienced Fintech entrepreneurs in a underserved financial market.
In the age of fintech, it's easy to be swayed by trends. We both had enough high-risk experience to recognise the danger of potential distractions. He needed my help as an external source of discipline - helping them to build and stick to a framework of key development milestones to ensure they were getting the right things done quickly.
Leadership coaching & op model change
Recruited to deputise for the founder and CEO with client deliveries and with the company's evolving operating model, I built and managed a small high quality delivery team, and worked to develop a model that built on successful company efforts and learned from unsuccessful ones.
One of the few employees with startup experience and management expertise, I gave freely and amply of my time to the management team and to functional experts looking for a sounding board.
Making tough decisions
A long time customer of this owner-operated fresh grocery delivery business, I offered to help the founder with some issues he was facing. In return, I learned a tremendous amount about a business I love and of which I am still a customer and advocate.
It's hard to be on your own all the time when no one has your back!
Introduced by mutual friends, I was an early investor in this start-up salad business that began its life in Leadenhall Market in the City. Because of my multisite catering background, I was asked to be the first Investor Director and shortly thereafter became Chairman.
My formal role involved everything you'd expect. Arguably more important, though, was my role as coach and sounding board to the founding MD, and locus of the very difficult decision to transition to new leadership.
Understanding the customer, the hard way
I joined this B2B housewares start-up as the first external hire. But we hadn't fully understood our target customers. They didn't want to do things differently, to trust their sourcing to someone else. We were too early.
To this day, I bring this lesson to every company table I join. Do we really understand who they are, what they want, whether we offer it, what they're willing to pay, what service they expect?
Seattle Coffee & Starbucks UK1997-1999
Swift and careful integration
After the first few conversions of Seattle Coffee stores into Starbucks in early 1998, we had lost a store manager, sales were down, and customers were unhappy. The store teams were worried and didn't want to continue with conversions to what many perceived to be the McDonald's of coffee. Our customers and staff loved our brand, and didn't want to see it go.
I approached the Chief Executive (and co-founder) of SCC and expressed my concern - and he asked me to fix it.
EMIS (ISI Emerging Markets)1996-1997
I joined this emerging-markets data provider straight out of business school after working with them on an operations manual for new country managers. All of my team were 25 or under, based in 6 markets in Eastern Europe & Turkey.
With only one regional product when I joined (Poland), we launched 7 more during my tenure, which together gave us the company’s first complete regional offering. I was managing over 50 people remotely and had built close working relationships across the global company.