“I act based on data and a big dollop of instinct”
Jenny Burns, Just
To make big changes in a business you have to have utter self belief but that belief must be based on tonnes of information. I act based on data and a big dollop of instinct.
Being an agent of change has its highs and lows but that is the difference between being a changemaker or being a regular employee. Too often I see people give up. They hear too many ‘no’s, they respect the hierarchy, or they don’t have the drive. A changemaker never gives up.
My parents are traditionalists and I massively rebelled. My mum and dad weren’t particularly successful, they didn’t make much money and that was a driver for me: I didn’t want to be like them.
When you’ve taken risks and done well, you become a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I’m a changemaker in my personal life as well as my career: I’ve moved house 11 times and my friends would definitely say I am the naughty one in the group.
My biggest transformation has to be British Gas. When I arrived, the company was on Watchdog every week for cutting off old people’s gas and electric in the middle of winter. It was an organisation in need of massive change and I worked with the managing director Phil Bentley to recover not only customers’ faith in the brand, but also make its staff proud to wear a British Gas shirt in the street.
The biggest mistake of my career was when I moved to HBOS in the summer of 2008. The recession hit just after I arrived and its share price crashed. I was in the eye of the financial storm and I stayed just six months
I have a reputation for fixing businesses so most roles that I’m offered tend to mean making big changes and fixing things, which is great because that’s what I like doing. But the interview goes both ways. I always say, ‘I am going to disrupt this organisation and I may do things without asking for permission, are you okay with that?’ You have to be clear about your methods from the beginning.
If I were to try and transform the UK government, I would try to modernise the image of politics as well as the systems in place. British politics is old fashioned and has not kept up with societal changes and therefore is losing or lost its relevance.