Retail chief delivers shop-floor lessons

Talking Point

When Archie Norman took over as chief executive of Asda he inherited 200 managers. After five years 10 survived. The cull left a lot of executive Jaguars idle in the car park. Norman's solution: to raffle off a month's use to employees. As he said, "If you work on the checkout, it causes a stir among the neighbours when you drive home in a Jag."

Norman was speaking at the inaugural League Managers' Association "From Touchline to Boardroom" conference at the Emirates Stadium. The event was billed as a lucrative way to pass on the lessons of football management to business leaders, but the thought occurred, while listening to Norman and other executives who joined the likes of Arsène Wenger and David Moyes on the podium, that the education was mutual.

Norman noted that in football, like politics, "a new guy brings regime change", which meant a lot of knowledge was lost. A lesson itchy chairmen might ponder. Alan Curbishley, sharing the stage, recalled such was the crisis when he took over West Ham United that he retained the coaching staff. West Ham stayed up.

Norman stressed the need to motivate everyone, from bin-men up, by finding ways such as the Jaguar raffle of giving them a stake. Asda paid less than rivals, but had better staff retention and absenteeism rates. The football parallel is the need for managers to keep the whole squad engaged, and for chairmen to do the same. Also useful was advice from John Timpson, of the eponymous chain, on dealing with a generation that no longer automatically accepts authority. Alex McLeish of Birmingham was one of the few football folk present at an event aimed at business. There should be more next year.

g.moore@independent.co.uk

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