55 | Leadership lessons from Feargal Quinn

April 29, 2019

Feargal Quinn, who passed away suddenly last week, was a legend in the world of Irish retailing.

 

I was lucky enough to have interviewed him for Episode Five of the Inspiring Change podcast last year and wanted to pull out some of his thinking in this week's blog.

 

Feargal was a real innovator in the world of retail.  Back when he started Superquinn, retailing in Ireland was still a world of shopkeepers in long brown coats serving customers 'a quarter of this and a quarter of that'.  So even the idea of self-service in itself was a bit strange for shoppers (so much so that many of the self service baskets became planters in people's gardens!).

 

He introduced Ireland's first retail loyalty scheme, self scanning, in-store bakeries and butchers; and much more.

 

But it was his focus on amazing customer service in retailing that really set him apart.  And for me, much of that was about how he and his management team led Superquinn's team of staff.

 

So that was what I focused on when we chatted on the podcast.  And there were a few gems that popped up:

  • The boomerang principle - Everything you do is about getting the customer to come back again

  • Have fun at work - If your staff have smiles on their faces it will rub off on your customers

  • Attitude trumps skills - No matter how skilled people were, if they didn't have a customer service ethos they didn't get the job

  • Words were important - To create the right culture, head office became support office; and staff become colleagues 

  • Leader visibility is key - Feargal would make manager's offices really basic to 'incentivise' :-) them to spend more time on the shop floor.  And he conducted stand-up meetings to so het could free up time to be out with colleagues and customers. 

  • Be transparent - Sharing sales figures with staff on a weekly basis meant everyone could see the impact they were having and it created healthy competition.

  • Learn from others around you - Feargal would buddy new staff members up with experienced ones so they could learn by example - they get to learn the ethos of the business, not the rules.  

By his own admission, none of this was rocket science really - it was about having a really strong purpose and creating a culture that delivered on that purpose.

 

I think there's a lot we can all learn from him! 

 

 

 

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