Interview Transcript

What contrast would you draw between your experience at Amazon and Deliveroo, scaling those organisations?

A lot of people talk about Deliveroo because it was a much earlier business when I joined. It was three years old. When I joined Amazon, it was about 13 years old. Amazon was on a much bigger scale at that point. Some of the things were embedded, but I think the scale journey Amazon went on was equally as challenging as it was for Deliveroo, from that perspective. Deliveroo was celebrating success more than Amazon. When I joined Amazon, it was, “Nobody’s talking about us; that’s great. We can go about our work. We don’t want to be anywhere near any external press. We’re happy to be behind the scenes, gradually building the business.” Deliveroo wasn’t necessarily trying to seek this press, but because it’s a consumer product and a big UK success story, it very quickly found itself in the headlines. That’s hard for an organisation. Overnight, it was getting involved in policymaking around the gig economy, in the press every single day, and it was incredibly challenged by a lot of external pressure when it was still, essentially, a baby. That was incredibly hard on the organisation. It very quickly gets you into, unfortunately, more short-term thinking about, “What’s going to be in the press?” That can be a big distraction to the organisation.

How do you manage that?

You hire good people to deal with it. You take a portion of the organisation that needs to focus on that and leave the rest to get back down, focus on their day job, and not worry about that stuff. It’s also a moment where you can very quickly identify high-ego people. As soon as there’s an opportunity to get out and build that profile, they can be drawn to that opportunity and building their own profile versus focusing on the organisation and getting good stuff done. In some ways, it’s a wonderful magnet because it pulls those people out; you can identify them very quickly. These are people who won’t be the level-five leaders we’ll need to build this for long-term scale. If you go back through Amazon’s history, Amazon had those challenges as well. I wasn’t there at the time, but I believe they had some similar challenges. Very similar in terms of growth, success. I think the maturity is certainly very different. Deliveroo is a less mature organisation, and therefore, having to go through, “What is the culture? What are our values? Let’s get those things locked in,” even before you can say, “We’ve got a culture because we’ve been growing it. Now we actively have to start thinking about it and managing it. What is our culture?” which Amazon had already gone through. I think it’s just staging development.

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