M&S Needs to Think Like a Start-Up

Pat Lynes is a business transformation expert, Founder and CEO of Sullivan & Stanley and the author of ‘The Interim Revolution’. Below he what disruptive technology can mean for companies like Marks & Spencer. If it wasn’t apparent that there’s a desperate need for businesses to build a strong transformation ability, then surely a monster […]

Pat Lynes is a business transformation expert, Founder and CEO of Sullivan & Stanley and the author of ‘The Interim Revolution’. Below he what disruptive technology can mean for companies like Marks & Spencer.

If it wasn’t apparent that there’s a desperate need for businesses to build a strong transformation ability, then surely a monster like M&S – a top five retail brand – closing 100 stores will help the business world wake up. The unprecedented disruption affecting Britain’s big players is going to have a lasting impact on our high streets and for M&S to maintain the market dominance it’s enjoyed over the last century, it needs to act fast and act now, getting closer to what customers really want and need.

Vertically-focussed, digital native businesses are disrupting retail sectors one by one. M&S maintains an uncomfortable spread across sectors and hasn’t moved with the times. To be a successful bricks and mortar company today, you need to create a retail theatre in a tightly focussed number of stores. The M&S in-store experience hasn’t evolved with the times and its outlets have started to lack character. They need to be revamped to excite customers while also supporting the ecommerce sales funnel. M&S should be looking at its physical spaces in a different way and should start building a fundamentally new business model harnessing tech.

While the business needs to make changes to its physical stores, it also needs to reposition its brand to appeal to a broader demographic. Its customer base is ageing and the long-term plan needs to speak to a new audience. The non-food offering isn’t relevant to gen-Z and it needs to work on that. For fashion to stay part of the business it’s going to have to change what it’s doing, otherwise it should forget it and double down on food.

To keep up today, our big corporate businesses need to be thinking and acting like the start-ups that have arrived to shake things up – by injecting agility into their teams. Usual methods of creating change aren’t working; management consulting models aren’t designed to get businesses out of the problem and leaders haven’t time to recruit perm people. The game has changed from ownership of talent to access to talent.

To act nimbly like their competition, companies need to be working with interim business executives – a SWAT team of specialists in transformation that can be parachuted in to work with senior members of staff. They will crowd around a problem to offer objective insight and help to create a culture of innovation and agility within the company. Transformation has become the norm and businesses need to embrace a culture of change to stay relevant. Interim teams can help them move quickly enough to make the changes that will keep them relevant for the next 20 years, rather than the next five. Failure to act at speed will result in failure overall.

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