Hamish Mansbridge, managing director of Heal's
As the managing director of one of the UK's oldest furniture retailers, no two days are the same for Hamish Mansbridge. He tells us all about life as the MD of Heal & Son...
What is it the company does?
Heal’s is the oldest and probably most famous furniture retailer in the UK. Established way back in 1810, we were the first to sell proper feather mattresses and among the first to sell electric lighting. Nowadays we are the home of design and craftsmanship, and we sell beautiful furniture and homewares from our original Tottenham Court Road flagship store, plus four regional showrooms and a thriving website. Heal’s is the destination for design and inspiration to enhance your home.
What does your role involve?
Like most CEOs, my job is a little bit of everything. In fact, the hardest aspect is keeping track of everything going on, and I have endless lists to ensure I don’t forget anything. I am fortunate to have a great team of people, so I don’t actually do very much other than giving direction and guidance and probably asking lots of annoying questions. I chair lots of meetings and set the overall strategy and targets, and then I let everyone get on with it and try not to interfere too much!
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I’ve been really lucky with my career and learned my trade at two other great retailers, as finance director at The White Company and then COO at the Snow & Rock Group. Before that, I worked for the accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and then spent 5 years at Reuters.
After that, I knew I wanted to work in Retail, and it was great to be part of The White Company’s incredible growth story from the beginning, from £20m and 4 shops to £120m and 50 shops. My last two moves were actually pretty easy: at The White Company, it was simply the right time as I was eager to take on a new challenge after 9 years, and at Snow and Rock Group, we sold the business.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Empathy, clarity, decisiveness, approachability, single-mindedness, passion and communication.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Although I have previously been an “Acting CEO”, this is my first CEO role, so without a doubt the biggest challenge is the ‘buck stops here’ aspect, there is an enormous sense of responsibility attached to that.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Wine! A large glass of something big and red at the end of the day works wonders…
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Anything sporty. Imagine being paid to play sport; there could hardly be a better way to make a living. I still play (vets) football and do 4 or 5 triathlons a year, but sadly, not quite at a professional level!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Mess. Laziness. I try to lead by example; I will pick up things and move things around in the stores so that people see how I expect them to behave.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Making a decent return. As with any company, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and although we are lucky enough to have the support of our very understanding owner (Wittington Investments), it’s my job to make sure we stand on our own two feet. Heal’s is a great business with a very proud history and we need that to be reflected in our financial performance.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
What has worked for me is hard work and passion. I treat everything as though it were mine and try as far as possible to get others to look at it that way too.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
There are many things that would have made a difference, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be told. You make your own way in life and as long as you are not afraid to try things and learn from your mistakes then you will find the right path for you.
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