Unprecedented with Mark Gilbert

Published 23rd April 2021

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Mark Gilbert, CFO at Rutland Cycling, who told us about how the pandemic has affected his business.

A background into you and your business?

Rutland Cycling is an owner-managed family business that is backed by PE, in BGF, and is experiencing rapid growth. I joined Rutland 3.5 years ago after coming from an Audit and Corporate background. I prefer the hands-on day to day challenges of an SME.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

To me, being a leader means being an inspiration to others and enabling people to reach their potential and to achieve their goals. However, I also think that being a leader is about being part of “the team”.

Who are your Leadership role models/inspirations

I have so many leadership role models and inspirations that I’ve come into contact with throughout my career. I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have worked with a lot of great leaders over the years. I often refer to them in my mind and think about how they would have done something that I’m faced with.

What would you like your Leadership Legacy to be?

I’m a long way off this, but I would like people to think that I helped them and their businesses to be better. I’d like to think that I inspired people, whilst also being a nice guy. I’ve learnt an important lesson from many leaders over the years - you can always be a nice guy and being a nice guy can lead to success and the best results.

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

Accountability, at all levels, is a non-negotiable behaviour for me. I believe that this creates the ideal culture for a successful business.

What impact has Covid-19 had on you?

I’ve seen more of my wife, my children and the rest of my family and have started to enjoy the simple things in life, like walking and cycling (of course).

What impact has covid had on your business?

It’s been transformational for us, as a result of the cycling boom, and we have reacted extremely well in order to maximise all opportunities and set our business up for future success.

What was your internal comms strategy at the start of lockdown? Has that changed in Lockdown 3.0?

In the first lockdown, we communicated regularly, as many of our store colleagues were at home on Furlough, but in early January, we invested in an intranet site that helped us to improve the way we communicated and meant we were able to offer greater support for our team. We have also thought a lot more about well-being and will be doing a lot more to improve our team’s well-being going forward.

What have been the Unprecedented decisions you have made? Those where there was no playbook.

The change in demand was astronomical, and the change between our sales channels was even more impressive. We were doing more online week after week than our entire company, including stores, has ever done. This growth involved making incredibly brave decisions on a daily basis, and we heavily relied on data, and being incredibly close to everything, to spot changes and trends. Our number 1 priority, as always, was our customers and colleagues.

The word pivot was used unprecedently in May/June. What have you done to innovate or differentiate you or your business?

We have made massive steps towards becoming a true omnichannel retailer, and we are investing heavily in digital and technology in order to make sure we keep up and capitalise in the future.

What were the 3 biggest (or best) decisions you made in 2020?

  • Investment in new high calibre Head of HR

  • Investment in new high calibre Head of Telesales

  • Investment in technology

What remain your 3 biggest challenges?

  • Supply chain issues in the market - we can’t keep up with demand

  • The time and resources of operating in times that are far from BAU - this involved lots of decisions

  • Forecasting what will happen next!

How have you/your business evolved from a digital/tech perspective?

We are totally data-led and we have a world-class reporting tool that has been game-changing.

How have you (your business) coped from a mental health/stress perspective?

It has been at the top of our agenda and will continue to be going forward. We have provided training and invested in an intranet site. These have been very challenging times for most, especially those working alone, and we, as leaders, need to ensure that we are very conscious of this.

Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?

Even economists don’t know, but I think we will be OK in general. We hear a lot of bad news in the press but I know there are a lot of good news stories out there and many businesses are currently thriving. It has created opportunities for those that are able to adapt.

At the beginning of 2020, we were in a talent short market. What is at the top of your "people strategy" agenda for 2021?

In the last 12 months, we have seen the benefit of quality over quantity. We will be investing in top quality people, both externally and internally, and technology which will be complemented by great people.

What are you doing to retain your superstar / Leaders of the future?

Again, this will be further down the line, but we are planning career development and senior management development. We have a very clear people strategy over the next 3 years.

Fast forward to 2050 .... what would you say to your future self...That you did well or badly in 2020 to learn from?

Grab opportunities and go for them. Believe and reach for the stars.

As a Leadership Team, how have you re-defined your vision and values? What have you done to make your culture remote-work friendly?

We haven’t really changed our core vision and values. We have invested heavily in working from home and have found the benefits of this, so will likely adopt a hybrid model in the future.

What advice would you give to those entering the workforce today?

Be patient, look for training, development, learning and experience from people. Never be afraid to ask for help. Understand where you want to be in 5-10 years and plan for that, play the long game.

I wouldn’t recommend seeking too much too soon. I see people prioritising salary and promotions NOW. If you earn £20k, don’t worry about how you get to £25k, think about how you get to £100k.

If you have found Mark’s blog interesting and want to learn more about him, you can connect with him on Linkedin. Alternatively, to learn more about Rutland Cycling, visit their website or Linkedin.

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