Roger Siddle is bowing out from Findel after almost five years turning the retailer around, but it is not the last retail will see of him.
“I saw a headline today which said I had retired, which got me quite cross because I’m not retiring,” Siddle tells Retail Week.
Instead Siddle is taking a short break to spend time with his family before seeking a new “meaty challenge”.
Before taking on the role at the home shopping retailer and education specialist, Siddle had not worked in retailing.
However he says he has enjoyed his time at Findel and reveals he would be “delighted” to stay in the retail industry.
“I would not say no to another turnaround, but equally aggressive growth has different challenges,” says Siddle. “For me the key thing is it needs to be a challenge. I’m not a steward, I like to get things to happen.”
When Siddle became chief executive of Findel the retailer was recovering from a fraud scandal involving international contracts in its education business.
Despite the fraud, it was the company’s poor financial health that primarily preoccupied Siddle.
He joined when the business was in distress as it battled to service significant levels of debt arising from emergency financing from the banks.
“In the grand scheme of things keeping the business afloat and alive was the biggest challenge,” says Siddle. “You look back and say, ‘wow we got through that’.”
As he prepares to step down in March the business is in much more robust health. Findel forecasts it will “deliver another year of strong profit growth” as its sales edge up.
Findel is at present exploring a sale of Kitbag and as a result is holding off from seeking a replacement for Siddle immediately “in light of the potential for change in the shape of the group”.
Findel non-executive chairman David Sugden, the man who brought Siddle into the business, will take on an executive chairman role in the interim.
Benefit of hindsight
Although Siddle is stepping down after leaving the company in much better shape, there are some things he says he would have done differently with hindsight.
One of the key lessons from being involved in a turnaround is that “getting it 80% right quickly is probably better than being 100% right too late”.
So what decisions would he have taken quicker in retrospect?
“Decisions around organisation structures and people,” explains Siddle. “We brought people in with particular skillsets and I look back and I wish I had brought them in earlier.”
One analyst believes that while Siddle has done a “very good job” in putting together a plausible strategy for a disparate group, he could have “bit the bullet” in deciding whether to sell or fully commit to the group’s education business.
When asked whether the turnaround of Findel is complete, Siddle says it “depends on how you do the definitions”.
“There is always more to do, Findel has a lot more potential, but I feel good where we got to and there is a strong, capable team in place,” he says.
Siddle is keen to stress the company’s turnaround was thanks to a team effort from people including Sugden, group finance director Tim Kowalski and Express Gifts managing director Philip Maudsley.
As he hands over the reins Siddle’s immediate thoughts are turning to spending quality time with his family, who are based in the Southeast, a long way from the company’s Greater Manchester headquarters.
“I will be catching up on home life,” says Siddle. “I have an enormous number of responsibilities to pay back to my family.”
One thing is for certain though: Siddle has no plans to retire just yet.
Roger Siddle’s CV
September 2010 to present: Chief executive of Findel
2007-2010: Chief executive of education company BPP Holdings
2001-2007: Managing partner at Bain & Company
1995: Becomes a partner at Bain & Company
1990: Joins strategic consultancy Bain & Company
Hobbies: Siddle likes to relax with a glass of wine on a Friday night and is also a keen Newcastle United fan. ‘The roots of my family on both sides are deep in the Northeast,’ says Siddle.