Asda Retail

Take a supermarket swipe at the pocket tappers? You Asda be joking


By Dom Burch, managing director

February 13, 2016 | 5 min read

Now I've officially left the building I can tell you what I really think about Asda.

I can finally get everything off my chest.

I hope you're sitting down.

Unfortunately I don't have a bad word to say about the place. Apologies for leading you on.

Asda is an amazing company, full to the brim of world class people. And I don't say that lightly.

It has spawned some of the best business leaders in the country. Many of whom have gone on to even bigger and better things.

Its alumni includes Archie Norman, Allan Leighton, Richard Baker, Justin King, Andy Bond, Chris Pilling.

Nobody, regardless of their level, ever leaves Asda and falls flat on their face.

But you only truly appreciate how good it is when you are on the outside looking in.

As it happens I've been mentally departing for a while, so the physical exit yesterday afternoon was not as heart-rending as you'd expect after 13 years.

There were still a few tears mind you. But no regrets.

Having lived in the land of the pocket tappers for more than a decade, I've seen my fair share of ups and downs.

Retail after all is notoriously cyclical. But as Andy Bond (former Asda CEO, now running Pep & Co) once said, 'you're never as good as you think you are. And you're never quite as bad as they say you are'.

I've gained so much at Asda personally. I've grown up there. I've made friends for life there. I've laughed there, a lot. I've been challenged there, and developed beyond my self imposed limitations.

I'm now a retailer first and foremost, a manager of people, a business leader, with skills in marketing, public relations and social media.

In the last two years in particular, having been plonked into a commercial role that couldn't have been more removed from my previous head of social media job, I've expanded my horizons.

I went from managing a team of one, a wonderful colleague called Nadia, to a team of 40-plus.

I've had to make tough decisions, I've had to take risks. I've had to learn about top down and bottom up financial planning.

I've had to learn how to navigate a P&L. Dispelling my fear of numbers along the way, and coming to recognise that I'm more commercially minded than I had given myself credit for.

I've banished certain phrases from my vocabulary (thanks to my coach Jonathan Bowman-Perks) and am now very careful about the words I choose to use to describe myself.

I've had some great support and guidance over the years. And like Barry McGuigan after a fight I feel the need to do a role call and thank a few people.

So in no particular order, here goes.

My first thank you is to Christine Watts, who humoured me when I begged her for a job at Asda.

Next up, Nick Agarwal, my boss for the lion's share of my time at Asda. He was the Alastair Campbell of the supermarket PR world. An inspiration.

Rob McWilliam, now running consumables for Amazon in the UK. He made finance interesting and made quarterly results fun.

Jon Wragg my first business mentor. Guided me before my career break, and later became my boss, supporting my venture into social media.

Judith McKenna, former Asda COO, now more or less running Walmart US. A huge supporter at all the right moments, signing off the first ever significant investment in social media.

Steve Smith, now CEO of LLBean. I told you all about him the other day.

Chris McDonough, now of Homebase. One of the most impressive marketeers and leaders I've ever had the pleasure of working for. Also a huge supporter of me.

Barry Williams, who gave me some great guidance when I landed in my commercial role. Get all of your bad news out of the way early. He wasn't wrong.

Everyone I've ever mentored at Asda. You all gave me far more than I ever imparted on you.

I'm sure I've missed people off, and I'll kick myself later when they come to mind.

I simply want to put it on record that I absolutely loved working for Asda and will remain indebted to every colleague past and present.

Once a pocket tapper always a pocket tapper.

Follow Dom on Twitter @domburch

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