Simon English: Robertson passes the good chief exec test

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The Independent Online

Outlook A short-hand test for whether a chief executive is any good or not: ask how many staff work for him (or her).

The really bad ones don't know or care. The ordinary bad ones don't know and are only embarrassed at that because they realise it could be made to look embarrassing.

Nick Robertson at Asos says in his answer: "2,500 in the UK. I'm glad you asked, hardly anyone ever thinks about them."

Their jobs should be safe, he adds, despite slower growth in the UK lately. Indeed, he's still hiring.

As an example of how to behave, Barclays could look at Asos, the online fashion retailer which was founded by Mr Robertson.

He runs a terrifically good business in admirable ways; more than that, he doesn't assume his status as a successful businessman makes him immune from all criticism.

He takes the view critics may have a point. He'll even think about it.

"We'll take that one on the chin," he mused, amiably, yesterday.

Part of Mr Robertson's appeal, his skill, is to demystify what he does. To make it sound less complicated and onerous than it actually is. Bankers do the exact opposite.