David Buckingham, the new CEO of Ecrebo
David Buckingham, the newly appointed CEO of rapidly-growing point of sale business Ecrebo, gives BQ an insight into his career so far and reveals his top tips for aspiring business leaders...
What is it the company does?
Ecrebo is a point of sale marketing specialist that enables retailers to offer their in-store customers targeted offers and communications at the point of sale, based upon what they’ve purchased previously or what’s in their basket. This is really clever because it means that the messages and promotions that shoppers receive are actually targeted and relevant to them, which we know can drive loyalty and generate profitable long-term business for retailers.
So for example, if we know that the customer has bought a particular product like pet food in the past, they are likely to receive an offer for pet food in the future, because the retailer knows that it’s targeted and relevant to them. This is much more powerful than generic offers without any targeting, which we know are less likely to be redeemed.
We work with some of the biggest names in retail including M&S, Waitrose and PANDORA and we’ve been able to demonstrate a payback on their investment with us in a matter of weeks, which is really exciting. Due to the ingenious way in which Ecrebo’s technology has been developed, we are able to integrate seamlessly with any point of sale system, with no disruption to the retailer, and no additional hardware required. We are up and running in a matter of weeks, with the flexibility to turn campaigns on and off at a moment’s notice, giving us some major USPs.
What does your role involve?
I joined Ecrebo in March 2017 so I’m still very new to the business. As CEO, I will be building on the success that the Ecrebo team has achieved to date and accelerating our international expansion, with a specific focus on the US. As we grow, we will need to recruit new talent and continue to develop our market-leading retail technology platform. We work with some of the leading names in retail so I will be looking to spread the word about Ecrebo and the opportunities our technology presents to retailers on a global scale.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started out on the graduate programme at the company that went onto become Kantar Retail back in 1991. I spent a few years working in consumer research, primarily in the FMCG space before moving onto IRI. IRI was the first company to use point of sale data for commercial purposes and I joined them in the UK shortly after their entry into the market.
I had two spells with them and held a variety of roles including account management, leading the business development team, overseeing the retailer services team, running the business in the Netherlands, and finally working as commercial director for Northern Europe. Through these experiences, I learned a great deal about retail, FMCG, team leadership and multicultural working practices.
I moved from IRI to LMG in 2007 (Nectar/Aimia) to help establish their insights and communications business for Sainsbury’s. I acted as UK MD and was part of the team that led to the creation of the joint venture with Sainsbury’s, i2c, which was established to drive FMCG investment in integrated, multichannel communications with Sainsbury’s shoppers.
I served as the inaugural CEO of i2c, and established the business over the first 18 months of its life, before moving to New York with Aimia to head up their shopper insights business for North America. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the US, but was tempted back home to the UK by the fantastic opportunity at Ecrebo.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think a great leader needs to have many traits, one of which is to surround yourself with a great team and inspire them to do great things. But it’s also important to be able to understand the bigger picture of business, adapt quickly to changes which may come your way and have a clear vision of where you want to go. If you believe in the vision you have and are passionate about what you do, you’ll inspire the team you have around you to believe in it and work towards it, too.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
I’m still in my early days at Ecrebo so luckily I haven’t had to face too many challenges yet. From previous experience, hiring the right people can always be quite challenging, and ensuring that you bring in individuals of the right calibre to grow with the business.
We have big ambitions for Ecrebo, but we need to manage the speed at which we grow the company carefully to ensure we don’t grow too quickly. The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far has been getting under the skin of an organisation that, at its heart, is developing incredible but very detailed technological innovations. But I’ve relished the challenge and I’m genuinely excited about the opportunity our technology presents to retailers, both now and in the future.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I like to exercise when I can, and have been known to do a reasonable amount of running in my time. I’m into music and still enjoy the live music experience. Besides that, I love to relax with my wife and three young children.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was given a book about the Universe when I was 7 years old, and wanted to become an astronomer. Completely coincidently, that’s what my 8 year old son says he wants to be after having read a similar book!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I really dislike tardiness for meetings and appointments because I believe it shows a real lack of respect for other people’s time. I try to address this by leading by example. I am very rarely late for meetings if I can help it.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Ecrebo was founded in 2010 and in just seven years, has developed a cutting-edge technology platform that is being used successfully by some of the largest retailers across the UK, and beyond. We were recently named as one of the UK’s fastest growing technology companies, which is a great achievement for a company of our size, and proof that what we’re doing is working.
In five years’ time, I expect Ecrebo to be a much larger organisation, with an established international presence and with a client base that includes some of the world’s largest retailers. With a large and growing team of engineers who boast a multitude of PhDs and patents between them, I also envision that we’ve got the talent and desire to develop new technologies that are set to revolutionise retail.
While I expect Ecrebo to be unrecognisable from the company we are today, I know that we’ll maintain the passion and commitment that has made the business the success it is today.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Take time to build a clear and compelling vision, with unique elements that your company can deliver against. Sense check it with clients and prospects then pursue it relentlessly, avoiding temptations to deviate from the course, unless they add clear value to yours and your clients’ business.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
It’s OK to be wrong! Great leaders don’t purport to have all the answers. One of the best managers I ever had was great at accepting his own knowledge gaps, which gave others the chance to shine and feel as though they were able to really contribute. I hope some of that has rubbed off on me.