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How staff can do it themselves

Stewardship ranks either very high or very low amongst FDs – an interesting finding in the wake of (nope, sorry, can’t help it: I’m going to have to use the E word) Enron. Leadership is usually a valued skill, as is the ability to think strategically. Accuracy is safe in the hands of your number 2, it would appear.

This month we talked with Chris Woodhouse, FD of Homebase, who has played a big part in transforming the DIY retailer’s fortunes – and his own.

As part of the venture-backed management buy-in team, Woodhouse introduced a new retailing concept, changed the capex approval system, got rid of a bunch of consultants, got rid of about 300 staff, re-energised the rest of them and sold the business to retail group GUS for a big profit, making managers and venture capitalists very happy.

It was good inspiring stuff. Not rocket science, not financial engineering, and certainly not asset stripping. In fact, a large part of the transformation centred on getting staff throughout the business to behave in a more entrepreneurial way. If that sounds too flaky, try it this way: success comes from demonstrating to people that they can be part of the process of creating success. People have to believe that it’s okay to try something and fail, provided you can also act quickly to correct it. If employees also have a strong financial stake in the business, as Woodhouse puts it, so much the better. The result will be a company that not only embraces change, but champions it.

So let that be your new year’s resolution for 2003 – to inject more entrepreneurial spirit into your organisation, eliminate the organisational and political bottlenecks that stifle initiative and enthusiasm. Make people care about what happens – and have a prosperous and happy new year.

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