Interview Transcript

Talking about young, first-time managers, who are very competent but are also managing someone older than them. Did you ever have to go through that dynamic and how did you deal with that?

I’d always say, if a young manager is not ready to be a manager, it’s their manager’s fault. I’ve always been very fortunate to have really good, strong, supportive managers and that’s really helped me through my career. But in every single role, I have, more often than not, been the youngest. In my exec team today, I’m the youngest member. The whole board is older than me, as well. It’s a joke, sometimes, in the call center, because I talk to some of the call center staff and they can’t believe that they’re older than me. I tell them that this was me 12 years ago, doing the same grafting that they do.

It tells you about an individual, more than anything. I would always say, if a young manager is not ready for it, it’s because their manager hasn’t spent time with them and worked with them. But me, as an individual, or an individual as a young manager, some people are just like that. I’ve had times where people have said to me, “Wais, I’m sorry you’re young; I’m sorry you’re inexperienced.” But for me, it just goes to the logical approach, which is, usually the people that say that are very insecure. I usually take it with a pinch of salt. I think, very much in the earlier days, there’s nothing wrong with talking to someone about it. Klaus, who I speak very highly of, the previous CEO at Just Eat, and Dave Buttress, as well, if I had a bad issue, they were only a phone call away. So if I had a scenario, I would ask them how best to deal with it. I didn’t have to make that phone call a lot, but we all should have somebody like that. That support network, for me, is key. I really haven’t had too much of a problem; I’ve had it once or twice.

Fortunately, from my personal perspective, because I’ve got brands that people can relate to, they feel comfortable with me. But I would say, for any young manager out there, I think the important thing is, if somebody comes in and says, “Well, you’re young,” they will probably only say that for one or two reasons. One, you’re making rash decisions that you are not communicating about. Two, they’re just an insecure individual. If they are an insecure individual, they’re probably not performing well at their job and they probably shouldn’t be at the company. At the same time, that individual should have a manager, HR person, who they can get some advice from. You never stop learning. Different challenges, different moments, even in today’s world. When I’m speaking to investors, I do it in my style, in the way that I like to do it. However, I do phone our chairman, sometimes, to say, how do you think it went? He will give me some advice that, either I can take, or not. But you need that and it’s important to ensure you have that.

It’s having mentors, but also tying that back with the logical approach and not making rash decisions. Actually performing.

Exactly. I think the mentors have to stay behind the scenes. For any leader, if you go somewhere and somebody says something to you, and you immediately go and run to somebody, the perception is, you can’t handle the team yourself. You need to be a strong leader; you need to be very logical. You need to be upfront and very, very direct. But if somebody comes in and says, “Sorry, you’re a bit too young,” I think it says more about the individual than the leader. But the leader always needs a support network.

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