Former Asda boss reveals secrets of success
In retail, only two things count - colleagues and customers - according to former Asda boss Allan Leighton, now chairman of The Royal Mail Group.

Speaking at the Retail Week Conference, Leighton said retail is a straightforward business and the key to success is communication.

'Strategy is only 20 per cent of business, whereas execution is 80 per cent,' he said. 'And the people that work out the strategy are not the same people that carry out the execution, so communication between those two parts is paramount.'

Leighton said retailers need to work out the mission, the purpose and the values of the business. 'It's all about leadership and leaders can't delude themselves. It's about doing the right thing and having a very good team of managers to execute that mission,' he said.

Leighton spoke of several key characteristics that leaders need if they are to win in retail: focus, energy, charisma, drive and impatience. He cited Microsoft founder Bill Gates as an example. 'He doesn't have an outgoing personality, but he has the sort of personality that has the charisma to drive people,' he added.

He offered a checklist of attributes that retailers can use to gauge if their business is a 'winner', including strong culture, dominant brand, low resistance to change, leading market position, a low-cost, efficient structure, driven by value, and outstanding people.

'I was brought up to believe that respect is something you earn,' he said. 'That's not the case. Respect is something you give and then hopefully, if you successfully lead the business, they will give you that respect back.'