The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast

52 Leading Transitions on the Evolving High Street with Daniel Astarita

February 26, 2024 Dr Nia D Thomas Episode 52
The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
52 Leading Transitions on the Evolving High Street with Daniel Astarita
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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast, where we delve deep into the world of self-awareness and understanding the dynamics of human interaction. In this episode, our host Nia Thomas is joined by Daniel Astarita, the managing director of Kesslers, London, a renowned name in the retail design industry. Together, they explore the challenges and successes of leadership, self-awareness, and adaptability in the retail sector.

Daniel found himself in a challenging situation when the business he worked for went into administration after ten years of serving as a sales director.  From managing a struggling business to navigating a merger with a large corporate entity, Daniel shares his insights and experiences, highlighting the importance of embracing diverse thinking and creating an engaged workforce. They discuss the future of the high street, the impact of COVID on retail, and the pivotal role of leadership traits in staff retention and development.

Join us as we uncover the complexities and opportunities in the retail industry and gain valuable insights from Daniel's journey of self-improvement and leadership.

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Nia Thomas [00:00:00]:
Hello, and welcome to the Knowing Self, Knowing Others podcast where we talk about self aware leadership with thinkers from around the globe. Join me, your host, Nia Thomas, as we talk to today's guest.

Nia Thomas [00:00:13]:
A very big welcome to Daniel Astarit, the managing director of Kesslers and Proportion London. They are renowned names in the retail design industry. Daniel has over a decade of dedicated leadership experience, and he's overseen, the creation of numerous award winning displays for retailers and brands worldwide. Daniel's leadership extends beyond business success. He's deeply vested in nurturing a culture of creativity, problem solving, and continuous improvement within his team. The ethos that he has really ensures that Kessler consistently exceeds client expectations and maintains that long term partnership with of the industry's biggest names, which you really want when you work in retail. In January 2022, Daniel led Kessler's through a merger with a large corporate entity, and he's gonna talk to us more about the challenges and the successes of that transition. But join us as we delve into Daniel's leadership journey, his passion for excellence, and the inspiring future he envisages for his team.

Nia Thomas [00:01:16]:
Welcome, Daniel. It's lovely to have you here.

Daniel [00:01:18]:
Thank you so much for that introduction. That was quite quite the introduction. I am very grateful for you to have me, and I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Nia Thomas [00:01:26]:
Brilliant. So tell us about your journey to your position because you're managing director of 2 companies, which, I mean, that's no mean feat if you've got a, you know, eat and sleep in between as well. So how how does all of that fit together?

Daniel [00:01:40]:
So I guess it's kind of it came around by accident is the honest truth. So the the the business that I worked in as a sales director for 10 years hit rocky grounds, and it actually went into administration. The administrators came in to close the business down. And I'd I'd watched the business struggle for the last 2 years. And I had ideas. I had ways that I wanted to improve it, but I wasn't able to land them with the old ownership. I wasn't able to get across what I wanted to get across to to to try and make the business better. I was the youngest director of 6, and I guess I was probably on the board almost by default because of a role in sales.

Daniel [00:02:15]:
So when everyone else had left, I sort of said to the administrators, no. I I think I can do this better, and I'd like to I'd like to purchase the assets. I'd like to purchase the IP, so I wanna I wanna kick the business off again. And, basically, it all happens and it took a bit of a chance, but the the plan was to get stripped the business back to its basics. The business been around for a 130 years and have been successful for a 128, and we lost our way for 2 years. And I kind of always believed that it at its root call, at its at the heart of the business was something that was still potentially very successful. So I sat down. It was December 14th.

Daniel [00:02:50]:
Half we made a 180 people redundant. It was the saddest day of my life. It was absolutely awful and create a new business plan. I worked Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and we we brought the business back on January 16, 2022. And we've been trading now as this as this, you know, old name, but new business for getting on for two and a half years. And it's going well, but, you know, I'm on I'm on a learning curve. I've I've come from being a sales director, which is a completely different role to being an MD, you know, completely different. All the responsibilities change.

Daniel [00:03:19]:
And so I'm on this absolute self journey really to to try and be the most rounded leader that I can be.

Nia Thomas [00:03:25]:
You said that you were on the board by default because you were in a sales role. So how did you get to that sales role? What is your background to to that sales position and then on to that leadership?

Daniel [00:03:38]:
So I guess the background is that I I was an an account director for the Kessler's business for 6 years. My responsibility was to bring in sales effectively. They sold the business to a big private equity company. They came in and they took the management team out and they installed a new management team. And, I guess, because I was the highest grossing salesman in the business, almost by default, I was asked to be the sales director. It'll be it was a private equity business, and they had a a vision for the business over 3 years that we were gonna grow from 12 to 30,000,000, and that was effectively the the the mantra. You know, take the business forward, grow the business top line, and we'll sort everything else out. And we did that.

Daniel [00:04:20]:
We we did a very, very successful sales growth. We did take the business from 12 to 30. The problem was we weren't making any money. We were actually losing £3,000,000 a year, But that was that was you know, I was told never to concern myself with that. That was other people's problems. It was sell, sell, sell, you know, competitive environment. And then it all came to a stop. You know, when COVID finished and retail didn't quite come back the same way as it had done prior, this £3,000,000 loss making business, private equity got bored of it, and they walked away, pulled the plug.

Daniel [00:04:49]:
And we

Nia Thomas [00:04:49]:
were see.

Daniel [00:04:50]:
And I was yeah. All my directors were asked to leave the business. So I was I was effectively there to collect the debt from my customers for the last couple of years. So I spent 3 years on the board, you know, watching private equity, very senior accountants and lawyers and well practiced MDs run this business in the boardroom. But without any real executive training, without any real understanding of, what we were trying to achieve or why it was the right thing to do. And in hindsight, it wasn't the right thing to do. It was a very short term goal and ambition that was riddled with issues. And so I always thought, like, I was the silly one in the room, you know, raising these issues because everyone else sort of had this, you know, was really off the same page.

Daniel [00:05:29]:
And, I guess, coming back into the new world, we're gonna do we're gonna try and do it the right way. We're gonna try and do it more integrity. We're gonna try and grow top line sales, of course, but we're gonna we're gonna concentrate on bottom line profit. We're gonna we're gonna treat our staff better. We're gonna treat our suppliers better, and we're gonna try and be a more rounded and and better business for it.

Nia Thomas [00:05:47]:
That's interesting the way that you were describing that that lots of people on the board were very similar in their thoughts and ideas and you felt like an outlier. And it's something that I read a book by Matthew Said a few years ago and it talked rebel ideas and it talked about cognitive diversity and that actually that having people in the room that all think the same way doesn't help you solve problems and that actually you need that cognitive diversity to be able to see things from a different perspective, put ideas together in a different way so that you look at solutions in a different way. So what did you really learn about leadership during that point? Because you mentioned that you'd made 180 people redundant, which I can imagine that is that is really tough emotionally. And going to work every day, that must be a a difficult task when you know how much of an impact you're having on other people. So what did you learn through that process about leadership?

Daniel [00:06:46]:
I I learned that having a job title doesn't make you a good leader. Yeah. I I learned that you can do things, and you can treat people right and still be effective. I learned that honesty and integrity are are not words that we should forget or or should be words that we we dismiss Because there are ways of doing things, and sometimes you have to make tough decisions. And and sometimes, you know, you need to change and you need to adapt and you need to be agile. And sometimes, there's a fallout with that, you know. And sometimes, redundancy is not the end of the world because it's the right thing for the for the business. But making tough decisions can be done with respect and with integrity, and I think that's the thing that I came out of it with the with the number one priority as we went into the new world.

Daniel [00:07:31]:
There's that everything we do, I'm gonna try and do it for the right reasons. We we we sat down when I brought my management team back, and I wrote down Rebel Ideas as a book that I need to read because I brought my management team back. And if you sit in my SMT, they've they all think very differently to me, and and there's a lot. You know, we have a job titles off the table hour every week where we sometimes we argue, sometimes we bicker, sometimes we're constructive, but we are very, very different in our thinking. And I was really conscious that I didn't know everything. I was gonna take this on as an MD, but, effectively, there were people in the room that had more experience in different areas of the business than me. So, yes, I'll take it on my shoulders, but if I don't embrace their ideas, their ideologies, their understanding of their role, then I was I was it was never gonna work from day 1. So it was a real change for me because coming from being a sales director, you know, you're in a really competitive sales environment.

Daniel [00:08:26]:
Ego's a really big thing in sales.

Nia Thomas [00:08:28]:
Mhmm.

Daniel [00:08:29]:
And actually having to put that on the back burner and and, I guess, understand what's you know, how my actions were being perceived by others, how my behaviors and emotions were driving meetings became a really important thing for me. So I guess that's the journey that I'm on. I'm I'm certainly not the finished product. You know? I make mistakes every day. But I've got a an SMT that will absolutely call me call me an idiot and tell me that if I'm doing something wrong, and and I've I've become much much better accepting, criticism in in this new world.

Nia Thomas [00:08:57]:
Uh-huh. That's amazing. Which leads us very nicely into a conversation about self awareness because, obviously, that transition from sales to managing director has been, big transition for an individual. So how would you define self awareness? So you you've talked a little bit about what you've learned about yourself. But if we just talk about self awareness, how do you define it?

Daniel [00:09:24]:
Are you ready for the, the the least erudite answer you've ever had to that question? Because for me, it's it's the ability to, interpret how my behaviors or or emotions are affecting the people around me, and then hopefully having the EQ to modify or or not modify if you choose not to, to the audience to get that outcome that you want.

Nia Thomas [00:09:43]:
I love that. So I have a 3 layer model, of self awareness, and it's reflection, recognition, and regulation. And what you've described there is the recognition and the regulation part and that is is a a big influence on how you operate. How do you reflect on your hard skills and your relational skills? Do you do anything specific, or do you reflect every day, or would you call yourself a a general reflector? How does reflection manifest for you?

Daniel [00:10:16]:
So I have a an hour and 10 minute commute to and from work, and I use that time to listen to wonderful podcast. And I'm I'm finding this whole new world of podcasting really intriguing because there's some incredible things out there that I just I think it's really hard to find. You know? You get the the But Yeah. Do it speaking to people like yourself, you find this really, really interesting. So I do a lot of listening to and this is a new thing for me. But if I'm not listening to a podcast, I'm reflecting. I'm reflecting on the conversations I've had, and I'm I'm I'm being so a little bit self critical. I'm thinking about how to do things differently.

Daniel [00:10:50]:
And often, I it results in me sitting down and and a late night phone call to a member of my team going, I'm sorry, or I should've done that better, or I'm not happy with the conversation we had today and how I responded to you. So this is a brand new thing for me. This is, you know, 2 years ago, that would have been, you know, me patting myself on the back for landing the sale and, you know, I'm the best thing in the world. So it's this much more humble outlook on on work, really, is kinda where I'm at now. But, yeah, it's the journey to work. It's that sort of self monologue. And if I'm going into something new, a new experience as an MD or a a meeting that I know is gonna be challenging, I'm I'm practicing. Yeah.

Daniel [00:11:27]:
It was previously everything was natural if it was off the cuff. But I think there are there are certain things about my role that I'm not I'm not particularly well practicing. I'm not particularly up to date with or or had those meetings before around, you know, had a meeting with the council about rates and things like that recently. I practiced that meeting because, actually, it didn't it wouldn't come as naturally to me as it would be if I was gonna sell you a retail display. So I've got much more much more reflective and much more practiced.

Nia Thomas [00:11:54]:
How amazing that within that time, and as you said, you hadn't had training or it's something that you've realized that it's you need it to help you move forward in your organization and your role. So how do you share that reflective practice across your team? Because you've already said you've got quite quite a diverse team.

Daniel [00:12:18]:
Got it.

Nia Thomas [00:12:19]:
How are you getting that sense of reflection, feedback out into your team so that you, I suppose, make it a part of the way you do things in your organization?

Daniel [00:12:30]:
Sure. So one of the things when we came back as effectively a new business and we asked, in the end 60 people to come back that had been let down by the previous business is we stood in front of them and we committed standing in front of them every month and hearing from them, how we're performing. We'll tell you how we're doing as a business. So did the redundancies came as a surprise to everybody? And Okay. People left just before Christmas really shocked and disappointed. And we promised to stand up, and we would be absolutely honest with you about our performance as business on a month to month basis. We've done 3 engagement surveys now, and we feedback the results. We've got a employee engagement committee, which is chaired by a member of the shop floor staff.

Daniel [00:13:15]:
Mhmm. We've got some community champions. So people that are in the business that you can go and speak to around if it's not a HR issue, but you've just got a general gripe, you know, you something that you wanna if you're not confident to come and talk to us. We've got an open door policy. So if the door's open, you come and speak to me. And people do. People come and speak to me if there's no toilet roll in the in the toilet. So they'll come and speak to me about the tea bags have run out, or they'll come and speak to me about genuinely big issues that are affecting them, you know, people who've got financial hardships and how we can help them with that.

Daniel [00:13:42]:
But it's about listening. It's about not having a one size fits all solution to everyone's challenges and listening and trying to trying to tailor a bespoke solution. But making sure that that, you know, every quarter we close the factory for half a day, and we'll go and have ice cream, or we'll go and do a scavenger hunt, or we do something together. So, you know, previously, the designers didn't know who shop floor people were, the accountants had never met. Uh-huh. The lot the the truck drivers, and now we have these sort of team events where everyone's mixed in and we have a much more people orientated business. So, you know, last week, my accountant went out to to watch the football with my account manager. I didn't even know they knew each other.

Daniel [00:14:16]:
And now they're going for to watch late and orient together and have a curry afterwards, you know. And so we we are we're on a journey together where we wanna we wanna be a embracing engaged workforce, and we absolutely recognize the importance of it. But listening to some of your other guests, like, listening to Sophie and people like that, we've got a long way to go. We can do better, but we are absolutely open to to doing more.

Nia Thomas [00:14:38]:
You talked about putting yourselves forward as a management team on a monthly basis. One of the one of the most difficult things about, being self aware is being open to feedback and being emotionally prepared to receive that feedback. How how were you dealing with that that vulnerability, that opening yourself up to that feedback?

Daniel [00:15:03]:
I think, if I'm absolutely honest with you, I am I I'm still I'm still getting better at it. I'm still I'm still trying to be a better version of myself with it because a case in point was in November, I stood up in front of the businesses and we said we're gonna we're gonna hit budget and we're gonna hit the the profitability target for the business this year. Aren't we all amazing? You know, big round of applause and they're kind of expecting this absolute celebration of success from the 100 people we've got in the business. Mhmm. And the management team and S and T were, of course, happy and excited, and and middle management were were were pleased. But the guy on the shop floor, his first question to me was, it's a bit cold. Can we turn the heating up? And my instant reaction was, that's really disappointing. That's that's not what I wanna hear.

Daniel [00:15:48]:
I kinda wanna, you know, I want the the raucous. I want acceleration. Yeah. But I went away, and I think I probably dismissed it a little bit out of hand. And I went away, and I reflected on it, and I felt really stupid. I felt, actually, if I'm not meeting the basic needs of my workforce and it's too cold out there, how can I expect them to be excited about the the things that don't, you know, the the macro things? And I went back and I apologized, and I said, let's fix it. Let's go and turn the heating up. Let's get you a a a heater next to your desk to to to warm you up a bit.

Daniel [00:16:17]:
You know, let what's the bespoke solution for you? So my instant answer to you is I need to do better. Mhmm. But I did fix it within 2 hours of of making the mistake of dismissing it.

Nia Thomas [00:16:28]:
Isn't that interesting? Something that came out with my research was this idea of strategic level disconnect, and it's exactly how you described it. It's that managers come forward with these ideas or big successes, whereas there are people in the organization who just want a heater. And it's that difference between what success looks like for 2 parts of the organisation, and if you have strategic level disconnect from the operational level, then you've got this never the train shall meet situation. So the fact that you were able to bridge that gap and and to go back and have that conversation, that's that's very interesting to hear that in in practice.

Daniel [00:17:08]:
Yeah. I wanna be the the leader that naturally responds how I wanna respond, and I think that's the journey that I'm on. I want it to be a bit more ingrained in me that as as I take that feedback on, I can adapt and have that self awareness to respond how I should've done instantly. But I do think the journey that I've been on for the the 2 years to go back and do it 2 hours later is certainly better than that where I was. So for me, it's it's about that journey of of self improvement.

Nia Thomas [00:17:35]:
Definitely. You've spoken about another one of the, podcast episodes that I talked to Sophie Bryan, and we happened to talk about retail. We we often talk about retail and how customer supremacy can mean that staff are marginalized, but what is your experience of that organizational culture and and where customers fit and where staff fit?

Daniel [00:18:00]:
This is a really hard question for me, and I and I don't I don't think I yet and maybe this is part of my journey. I don't think if you the question was, what's more important, customers or staff? I don't think I could distinguish between the 2. Okay. And a a case in point was was last week. My, well, my accounts payable lady, who is a lovely lady, had their notes in. And she's going to work 8 miles closer to home, and I was commute less, and she already has a, a working from home pattern in place. So kind of for and and it was all the right reasons, and we wish her all the luck in the world. And I put a job advert out.

Daniel [00:18:38]:
Within the 1st 2 hours, I had 28 applicants, perfectly qualified, you know, degrees, all sorts. Now I'm a serial LinkedIn poster, and the reason I do that is to try and, you know, hopefully, at some point, attract some new customers into the business.

Nia Thomas [00:18:52]:
Mhmm.

Daniel [00:18:53]:
Now I've been doing that for 6 months and I've had one. Now if I was to lose 2 customers, my staff don't get paid. I don't I don't have a job.

Nia Thomas [00:19:01]:
Yeah.

Daniel [00:19:02]:
So my customers I wanna be a customer centric business. Now I absolutely understand and balance that with with my employee's welfare, my employee's motivation, and how interesting the work is that they're coming to do, how well they're being renewed for the work. But the bear half for me and and I I really, really enjoyed the the sober Bryant conversation and agreed with probably 95% of everything she said.

Nia Thomas [00:19:25]:
Okay.

Daniel [00:19:25]:
But I couldn't quite get yet, and then where maybe this will happen in a year's time. I couldn't quite get to the point where I say employees are more important than customers. Because if I lose 2 employees, it'll be incredibly sad. If I lose them for the right reasons and I could go out to market and I can find some new wonderful people. I couldn't do that quite the same way with customers. Now if I was to lose 15 employees, it's very different, and I'd lose my I'd lose my customers because of it. So for me, I cannot distinguish between the 2 just yet. And I think the lost the the the lost stakeholder in that is also shareholders as well.

Daniel [00:20:00]:
And and I think shareholders are often seen as the, you know, a bit of a bit of a bit of a dirty word. You know, they're seen as the the the London bankers, the fat cats. Whereas, actually, my shareholders are people that invested invested their life life savings into what we're trying to do at the business. Mhmm. They're people that have got their their pensions or and they've really taken a big chance on on us as a business and what we wanna do, and promises that we've made to them on terms of, the outputs. So for me, I I really try to balance, all of my stakeholder equally and make sure that I'm just behaving the way that I said I'd behave at the start of the year right the way through to the end.

Nia Thomas [00:20:35]:
I wonder if part of the reason that you see stakeholders and customers and your members of staff and your people as being equally balanced in your organisation is because of the ideas and the thoughts and values that you have within your organisation and maybe part of the challenge that people have within retail is that maybe the leaders don't always have that balance. But maybe it's something that we can come back in another 2 years' time and talk about to see what you've discovered, as your your journey has progressed.

Daniel [00:21:08]:
Yeah. Definitely. Absolutely.

Nia Thomas [00:21:10]:
How does retail and I appreciate that you are an enabler of retail, but, nevertheless, you you are within that sector and you know the players within that sector. How do you ensure that voices are able to really inform and influence policy and decision making? You've already talked about your monthly meetings with your members of staff who can come and have that conversation with you, but is there anything that you do that you have noticed that is different to other organizations that allows that staff voice to feed up to to your senior team?

Daniel [00:21:47]:
So I think, you know, in some ways, we are very lucky. We are a we're an SME, and I think you can you can afford to be more bespoke and more tailored in an SME. And I think it must be a lot harder to do that in a in a large multinational global retailer or brands. So Mhmm. What what we do, you know, if I was, you know, I would never be, but if I was asked to be the managing director of test, because I don't think what we do translates into that large retail environment. I think what we do is good. We've got, you know, we're really happy with our staff retention. But I think retail has got a real challenge on its hands, and not numerous challenges on its hands.

Daniel [00:22:22]:
Staff turnover is one of those challenges, but it's always been high in retail, but it's higher than it's ever been. And I think a lot of that has to do with the way we conduct ourselves in short, the amount of crime, the amount of shoplifting. But But it's also it's also a wonderful place to be in that almost all of us have worked in retail at some point in our life, whether you whether we're 16 and it's a Saturday job or, you know, whatever that looks like, well, we certainly know a member of our family that has. Because I think it's I think it's, like, 72% of people have had a job in retail.

Nia Thomas [00:22:50]:
Okay.

Daniel [00:22:50]:
And some sometimes people leave retail because they're going off to university or they're retiring. And, actually, the the stats don't don't look amazing. 50% of people leave retail, their retail job in the 1st year. But of that 50%, 60% of them are going to going into other retail jobs. Mhmm. You know, retail is is a sort of precipice at the moment, post COVID. How do we return to physical stores? How did what what does us experience in store look like? And some retailers are absolutely getting it right and and and others are just gonna fall by the wayside. And and a lot of that is simply it's gonna be to do with how they how they treat their staff, how they reward their staff.

Daniel [00:23:28]:
You know, if you look at someone like John Lewis, their staff retention is 88%. Wow. What are they doing that's different to to a Tesco is that that's that's infinitely lower. It's not to go in a Tesco. It's a huge organization and but you go into a John Lewis and you're talking to partners, John Lewis partners, and it's just that word. I think that I think it creates a sense of meaning within the team. How can you make a difference in a big global retailer? And ultimately, you know, if if you're on a hierarchy of needs, for example, is doing making a difference is is the the thing people want the most. They wanna feel like they're valued.

Daniel [00:24:01]:
That's quite hard to do if you're stacking shelves, but it's not impossible. It just means you need to work harder at it.

Nia Thomas [00:24:06]:
Interesting. So what are your thoughts on people in those different roles? Something that I talk a lot about is leadership at all levels, and you don't have to have leadership within your job title to be a leader and to have people who are followers. Do you find that you have people who are on your shop floor or stacking shelves or who are really at the operational level of the organisation, and you're seeing leadership traits, leadership qualities. What is it what are your observations?

Daniel [00:24:38]:
Oh, absolutely. The best person in a role becomes a manager, and manager and leaders, the word is are not interchangeable. Some people come to work because they need to pay their bills, but actually work is work. And they have an amazing home life, and they can be leaders in their personal life. I've got football coaches. I've I've got scout leaders. And leadership can look very different to different people. Now some people don't want the hassle or or the issues that comes with managing people, but it doesn't mean they can't add enormous value to your organization.

Daniel [00:25:07]:
It's just about tapping into them and understanding what what gets them up in the morning, what what ticks their Yeah. Ticks their boxes. And therefore, we're having different forums and different ways of of of encouraging people to share their experiences and share their knowledge. It's a really, really powerful thing, and and we try really hard at it, and I'm sure we can do better, but we try to have forums and idea meetings where no idea is a bad idea, and we invite different people into it, and we brainstorm. And and if you don't wanna champion your idea, but you wanna give your idea, we'll try and implement it for you. We're trying to practice lean lean manufacturing. We're a manufacturing business. And lean is very rooted in in this idea of, empowering people and promoting internal ideas.

Daniel [00:25:49]:
And we try to do it, and I'm sure we could do better, but it's a really powerful thing if you get it right.

Nia Thomas [00:25:55]:
When we talk about your members of staff, and you've already mentioned, John Lewis and Tesco as an another example, that that staff retention is positive in some organisations, not so positive in others. What are you seeing generally and within your organization about the great resignation and what people are feeling about their organization. Are you finding that it's organization specific, or is it linked to the sector more generally?

Daniel [00:26:28]:
I think the numbers would probably say that there's a there's a sector problem, but there are retailers and organizations working within retail that are very capable and are bucking the trend. And I think retail is a is a industry that touches us all more probably more so than any other industry. You know, we all shop. We all we've either worked retail or we certainly have been into retail. You know, we haven't all had the same experience of working in a hospitality or automotive, for example.

Nia Thomas [00:26:52]:
Yep.

Daniel [00:26:53]:
And there are some incredible success stories. Retail, for me, is is there's no gate. There's there's very little limitations, you know. If you look at the c the former CEOs of Sainsbury's and Tesco, and, yeah. You can go in as a shelf sucker. You can go in as a warehouse operative, and you can become a chief exec of the operation, but you have to work incredibly hard. And you have to stand up from the crowd, and that pathway isn't always as clear as it should be. You know, some people, because of the sheer volumes of retail, because of the staff turnover, I think there's a a bit of apathy around investing in staff, because, actually, you you expect them to leave.

Nia Thomas [00:27:27]:
And Okay.

Daniel [00:27:28]:
If they're gonna leave, then why are we gonna invest in training and development? If they've been there for 5 years, 8 years, then maybe we'll start looking at them. And that's probably different to any any other industry because, certainly, in SMEs, you know, if I ever worked in a small SME, you know, we turn over 15,000,000, salesperson turn over 1,500,000,000. It's it's much easier to identify and tailor your rising stars and your top performers into something that's gonna be meaningful for them a lot quicker. And I do have sympathy with with these big organizations because they've got metrics to meet and measures to meet. And if they're not performing and they're not meeting their their their KPIs, they're gonna they're not gonna have a job for very long. And and, you know, stores do close down. Look at Wilkinson's, for example, you know, I think it's Yeah. 15,000 people lost their job.

Daniel [00:28:14]:
Yeah. Through no fault of their own. That wasn't anybody in the shop floor's fault. That's management decisions fault. That's that's a that's a lack of innovation that's happened in their stores over the last 10 years. You know, Toys R Us going back a few years, you know, if you look at what Toys R Us should have been and look at what Smith Superstores are doing now through a little bit of innovation, a little bit of staff staff well-being and staff engagement, you know, Smoosh is what Toys R Us should have been. They just they just lack the energy to to to innovate and change with the times. And I think that's what leadership is is is looking at, you know, taking that strategic view and having the ability to galvanize a workforce to come on a journey with you and get them excited and motivated that they can make a difference.

Daniel [00:28:56]:
Because, ultimately, we all wanna make a difference by going to work. But how did the guy in the warehouse make a difference in in 1 warehouse out of a 1000 stores compared to the CEO? It's a challenge, but I think it's a challenge that retail's got a lot got to address. And some of them are doing it well. There are people out there bucking the trends, and the others will continue to fall by the wayside if they don't get it right.

Nia Thomas [00:29:16]:
I'm really loving your ideas about leadership. I don't think everybody in retail has your ideas about leadership.

Daniel [00:29:23]:
I think I've had the experience of coming from a bad place, and then, you know, we just try and yeah. I think sometimes experience bears out the leader, and not everyone is set to go through the 180 redundancies, and we're we're wounded from that. We just don't wanna do it again, so we have to be better.

Nia Thomas [00:29:36]:
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And I think it changes you when you've lived through being the person who has to do that and the person who has to to walk alongside colleagues who are living through that. That makes a huge difference. Adaptability and flexibility really is a a a big thing for organizations, because I think the the speed of change within the working world is is becoming faster and faster. I like what you said, about leadership. You have to keep looking, and I and I've I've got this phrase that I often use, which is, as leaders, we look up and out and as managers, we look down and in, and sometimes within our roles, we have to do both.

Nia Thomas [00:30:16]:
And I think that's exactly what you said is that you've got to keep your eye on what's coming next. So I'm gonna ask you a question, and this is one of these things that I ponder as I walk up and down the high street. What do you think that the new high street or the high street of the future is gonna look? Because I I've got this idea that we like online shopping, we like coffee shops, we like having people delivering our goods on scooters to our houses within 45 minutes. How are we gonna put all of that stuff together, and what is that gonna mean for our high street? No pressure.

Daniel [00:30:49]:
Well, I'm gonna if I can answer that accurately, I might be invited onto some government advisory board and and and

Nia Thomas [00:30:56]:
You might. Yeah.

Daniel [00:30:57]:
You know, get a get an interview at the in EU. But for me, I take I take ever so slight issue with something you said around, we like online shopping. I'm not suggesting we don't like online on online shopping, but we can online shop. We found during COVID and and pre COVID that we never ever ever need to set foot in a retail environment again. You you there is literally nothing you cannot Yeah. You cannot acquire within 2 days from from Amazon or alike.

Nia Thomas [00:31:25]:
Yeah. But we like tactile. We like Yeah. I'm I'm okay. I'm on the journey with you. Yeah.

Daniel [00:31:31]:
We like going shopping. As humans, it is a leisure experience now, and it has been for a couple of years. For me, the high street is gonna change to something that is much more destination driven. So the big malls, the big shopping centers, they're gonna be a point of difference. They're gonna be like adult theme parks. If technology is gonna be absolutely rife, we're gonna have experiences whether it be with AI or digital digital screens or personalized shopping experience, we may not choose to buy anything because, actually, we can get it delivered and actually carrying shopping badge around for 4 hours. But we have a brand experience. So if you look at what Nike have done in in New York, they spent £500,000,000 opening a store where the priority is not selling anything.

Daniel [00:32:16]:
The priority is having an experience with Nike.

Nia Thomas [00:32:19]:
Oh, okay. That's new.

Daniel [00:32:20]:
If you take that sort of the fashion world, the catwalks of Milan filter down into your Primark and your River Islands. And for me, retail is gonna be much more seamless. So you'll go in there and you may choose to look at a mirror that can augment your your new outfit on, and you have it delivered the next day because, yes, when you need it and you wanna go for coffee and carry a shopping bag, it's just a a burden you don't need. And the retailers are getting that right will absolutely thrive. Because I go to Westfield I went to Westfield 2 days ago, and it was full. I could not get a car parking space.

Nia Thomas [00:32:53]:
Yeah.

Daniel [00:32:54]:
And all of those people were there out of choice rather than necessity.

Nia Thomas [00:32:59]:
Okay.

Daniel [00:32:59]:
So that's that's my future. That's my vision.

Nia Thomas [00:33:01]:
Oh, I'm I'm liking it, Danielle. I really like that idea that it's a brand experience, and you're absolutely I've I've been to the the Westfield in in Stratford in in London and in the Eastside and, yes, it's always jam packed full of people, but there is definitely something that leaders are gonna have to be very quick to respond. It's not gonna be cheap because if we wanna do anything like Nike has done with its $500,000,000, that is a significant investment. And if you wanna be able to respond quickly, you don't have that much time to save up that kind of money to be able to put that in place. So it'll be very interesting to see what happens on the high street in the future.

Daniel [00:33:42]:
Yeah. We're we're definitely gonna lose some names. You know? We we've lost some names already, and there'll there'll be a condensing of of, you know, if it's 500 retailers we've got now, it might be 200 retailers in 20 years time. But I do think what else can we do as a family or as a group of friends that it that compares to retail? We can go to the cinema or having a face to face, experience with people in our social circles. I think I think retail still trumps it. You know, Oxford Street is still Selfridges, you know. Selfridges become a tourist destination. And

Nia Thomas [00:34:15]:
Yes.

Daniel [00:34:15]:
Harrods, you know, luxury brands are coming into retail because what what retail seeing is higher average purchase price, but less volume.

Nia Thomas [00:34:24]:
Oh, okay.

Daniel [00:34:25]:
So if you look at people like Prada and Louis Vuitton, they're opening amazingly gorgeous, almost art gallery style retail outlets that are absolutely there for the destination and the brand experience. And Nike is absolutely the press of this, and it there'll be a a trickle down effect. But even a value retailer like Primark, Primark is a very different experience now than it was 10 years ago.

Nia Thomas [00:34:48]:
Amazing. I'm I'm really interested, and it's a sector that I know very little about. So that's that's a a really fascinating conversation. Danielle, how can people find out more about you, and how can if they are looking for jobs, how can they find out what jobs you currently have advertised?

Daniel [00:35:06]:
Well, so I am I mentioned LinkedIn. I am apologetically prolific on LinkedIn. So Daniel Asterita. I I love a conversation. I genuinely love talking to people. So add me, follow me, send me a message, and we can talk about anything you want. The jobs, we do have a couple of jobs online at www.keslas.com. But, yeah, always happy to talk to interesting people that have got interesting things to say or or can add value.

Daniel [00:35:29]:
So send me anything you've got, and let's have a conversation.

Nia Thomas [00:35:33]:
Brilliant. We will make sure that there are links to Daniel's LinkedIn and Kessler's in the show notes so that you can have those random conversations about anything you want to with Daniel on LinkedIn. It's been such an interesting conversation. Thank you very much for joining me, and it'll I think it'll make me think quite differently about the high street as I walk up and down in the future. Daniel, thank you so much for joining me.

Daniel [00:35:57]:
You are so welcome. Thank you for having me. I've really enjoyed it.

Nia Thomas [00:36:12]:
Awareness journey and can come and share with us on the podcast the twists, turns, light bulbs, and learning that they've experienced on the way. Get in touch with me via LinkedIn or drop me an email on info at knowing self, knowing others dotco dot u k. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for joining me in this episode as we look to develop self aware leaders around the globe to generate kinder, more respectful, and creative working relationships through reflection, recognition, and regulation. Join me next week as I talk to my next guest. Looking forward to having you on my learning journey.

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