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Unprecedented with Gary Holland

Published 5th August 2022

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Gary Holland, the Senior Commercial Business Partner at Watches of Switzerland Group, who spoke to us about how his approach to recruitment changed and working from home has helped improve his work/life balance.

A background into you and your business

I have worked for the business for 7 years in the Commercial Finance Team and I head up a team of four. Watches of Switzerland Group is a luxury retailer for iconic brands such as Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Omega and Cartier to name a very few. We have over 150 stores across the UK, USA and now Europe and are a member of the FTSE 250.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you

To coach, motivate and drive a team to achieve personal and team goals. To me, the key attribute is to empower your team to deliver objectives, leading to their personal development and growth

What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect yourself and those around you to live by?

Honesty and integrity are super important to me as I always look to do the right thing! Alongside this, I believe hard work and collaboration are essential, as well as having strong communication skills. 

In the world of work, it is also important to recognise achievements, support the company values and especially treat everybody around you with respect. Furthermore, challenge the status quo and always look to improve the way we do things and constantly improve processes. 

What are the Unprecedented opportunities or challenges you / your business are now facing?

To name a few…

  • Talent attraction
  • Talent retention 
  • Succession planning
  • Digital strategy
  • New Exec Level Recruitment needs
  • Culture of Team / Hybrid working strategy (again)
  • Supply chain costs/efficiencies
  • Cyber security
  • Big Data  
  • Market share growth
  • Sustainability / CSR
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automation
  • User experience / Customer experience
  • Business Transformation / Projects
  • Mental Health / Wellbeing 

Looking back to March 2020. If you could change one decision that you made what would it be?

Go on holiday! It was over 18 months before I got the chance again and it is important to have downtime in my opinion to be successful and operate to a high level consistently. 

Looking ahead, what are your predictions for the economy? For your business/sector?

I believe the next 12 months especially will be challenging with low growth, supply constraint issues and high inflation leading to higher interest rates, which will damage investment. Fortunately, working in the luxury retail business there has been traditionally some protection from this and given the high demand for many of our products especially Rolex (compared to supply) that should partially offset this.

Furthermore, as a business, we are continuing to diversify into new markets in the US and Europe. This should mitigate many of the challenges we will face.

Most business leaders are talking about the lack of available talent being the main inhibitor of growth (achieving their strategic goals) – what are your thoughts on this and what are you doing about it?

We are a relatively small finance team in my opinion for an FTSE 250 organisation and we are looking to grow over the coming years. Hopefully, the success we have had will motivate people to join the business. In order to stay competitive in the marketplace though we need to offer what people are now seeking. For example, competitive salaries and bonuses (including a good pension scheme) and flexible working options. Above all, we aim to create a strong, fun working environment that offers development opportunities and be known for that.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own personal priorities and goals?

Working from home permanently for 15 months (now 50%) and in the early days, homeschooling was a real challenge, especially at the beginning. However, that has given me a much better home/work-life balance in my opinion. On the days I am at home I can sit down to dinner with my family and then if required pick up the work 30 minutes later rather than stay in the office late and not have the motivation to switch on my PC much later in the evening. In many ways, there have been many positives. However, it is good to spend a good proportion of the week with the team, sharing ideas etc.. which can be difficult even over teams!

In the time that you have known James, how has your own approach to recruitment changed?

I tend to rely much more on the “professional recruiters” to give me a selection of candidates after discussions of what is required. Partly due to the limited time I have to look through CVs but mostly because I trust the people that I engage with to only send quality candidates. I think in the past I spent far too long looking at CVs and possibly disregarded good candidates without realising. 

Looking back on your career, what advice would you give to yourself if you could leap back 20-25 years?

I do not have a mentality of looking back with regrets. If anything, I possibly should have diversified a little more in the early years and got a wider finance experience and grounding. I possibly should have pushed harder for training etc.. in the early years, but I encourage my team to do that now.

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about Gary and the Watches of Switzerland Group, you can visit their website by clicking here. Alternatively, you can browse some of our other Unprecedented blogs, here

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