He’s not just any CEO, he’s an M&S CEO

I hate to jump on the Marc Bolland bandwagon, but, oh well, who am I not to?
The billion dollar man, the new saviour of M&S – the plaudits have flown
thick and fast.

And rightly so. He has done a fantastic job at Morrisons – arguably one of
the toughest and highest profile turnarounds the market has seen. He has shown
an ability to work with the widest range of characters and to get to grips with
the British culture – all in three years.

But what does this move really tell us? Well, I think it says many things,
but one thing is for sure. If you put your reputation on the line and you make a
success of it, your next job is going to be a good one. The market loves someone
who has made the unworkable work.

Why is that? Well – ignoring the fascination we have with superheroes – it’s
because there is a deep-rooted belief that anyone can do well in a business that
is doing well, but to do well in a poorly performing business, you have to be

Arsene Wenger is seen as the best manager in the Premiership because he works
with the fewest resources. Marc Bolland is seen as the best CEO in retail
because he started from the hardest place.

I’m not for one second implying he isn’t all that’s been said about him. I’m
simply making the point that his ability stands out because of where the
business was when he got there and where it is now.

And the pertinence of all of this for you? Well, it’s simple. As you look
around your business, I’m sure you can see problems. Some business units are
likely to be struggling. Some MDs will be looking more harassed than others, and
some FDs will be equally so. And they will need help.

They will be looking for bright, hard-working people who are not scared of a

And the prize for all of that is fantastic experience, varied work, a focused
team and gratitude owed at the end. Oh – and the odd sleepless night or two.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you sprint, arms wide open, towards the very
heart of the fire. But that’s what Marc Bolland did three years ago. And he’s
going to have a very good Christmas.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Berndtson

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