There are so many things to love about the retail industry, but what I love most is that you can be anything you want to be if you care enough and are willing to do whatever it takes.

John roberts stamp

John roberts stamp

Educational background is much less relevant in our industry than in most. Retail inspires entrepreneurs and creates opportunities for those that are quite simply willing to care more about everything.

This week, Retail Week tells some of the stories of those who have risen to the top, and how they did it.

I worked in a hotel in Bolton in my late teens which I subsequently re-named ‘The University of The Last Drop Hotel’.

“Not worrying about being right or wrong but placing the focus solely on caring about making the customer happy became my driving principle”

My single biggest lesson from that time was that those who were willing to work hardest, were resilient and cared most about customers, earned the most, enjoyed their time at work the most and were often most central to the sense of community within the team.

Back then, pay was low but you could earn good money through tips if you cared and gave a great experience. So that’s what I aimed to give.

That mindset of not worrying about being right or wrong but placing the focus solely on caring about making the customer happy became my driving principle for everything else.

Change is a constant

But the wants and needs of customers are continually evolving. Change really is the only constant in retail, so while this makes it a hugely competitive and challenging environment it also makes this industry one of the most exciting.

It presents a constant stream of opportunities for those who care enough to look for them and do something about them.

At AO.com we have seized some of these opportunities, built a whole culture that just cares more and driven technological and behavioural change for the benefit of the customer.

“Staying close to our customers is one way we can ensure that we are best meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations”

But even with that success in our DNA, with all of our employees living the AO Way, we have to continue to obsess about culture and what’s coming next.

The pace of mobile adoption is unprecedented. Adapting to new innovations – whether that be to click and collect, machine learning, personalisation or AI – requires the same obsession to care about what the future holds.

Close contact with customers

Staying close to our customers is one way we can ensure that we are best meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations.

Giving back to local communities is also a genuinely rewarding way of doing so and, if you embed that principle company-wide, you’ll see other fantastic benefits in terms of employee engagement and brand awareness.

“The lessons I’ve learned from the private sector … we are bringing to the voluntary sector”

I became involved with the charity OnSide a number of years ago. In disadvantaged communities all over the country, OnSide is building first class youth zones – places where young people can go, have something to do and have someone to talk to.

The lessons I’ve learned from the private sector – focusing on making the customer happy (which in this case is the kids), providing great service, constantly adapting – we are bringing to the voluntary sector. And I get as much from my involvement as OnSide gets from me.

So if I leave you with one message, it’s this: do something to give back to your community. Whatever it is – volunteer, donate, care – do something.

Help make the world a better place for the fact that you were in it.