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Rush Reports: Christmas Countdown, Back to the Office, Leadership Training and a Visit to the U.S.

Life has been super busy since the last time I wrote, so this is a long one, but writing down what I’ve been doing made me remember why I love this business much.

Is it really nearly Christmas?

So, the countdown is now on, 16 days to Christmas! The expectation is that after last year, this will be many peoples biggest Christmas ever. Some of the current research is predicting that people will spend as much as 30% more than they previously did on gifts for their loved ones. Retailers are forecasting record sales. But what about Plan B and now the new variant? Does this change that thinking?

We can’t prepare for every scenario and as a business and as a team, we have weathered the past 21 months well, so we are confident that this Christmas will our best yet. We’re making sure we have more products available than any other year, so if our customers want to go all out, we have lots for them to choose from. We’ve worked with our experience partners to innovate, add value, and broaden the appeal of our range at the very best prices, without compromising the actual experience and the flexibility of our offer. This is our first year with a U.S. business and we have built on the great work the team have done previously, whilst adding some extraordinary, that the Virgin brand gives us. At the Virgin Experience Days, Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Gifts offices, it’s all about staying positive and focusing on what we can do!

A trip to the U.S.A:

On the 15th November, Richard (Our CEO) and I flew to the U.S., (Denver) to meet in person for the first time, our US colleagues at Virgin Experience Gifts – and it was awesome. When we acquired the business in March this year, 2021, we never imagined it would be another 9 months before we got to do this. Although at that time, in addition to the rebrand, we’d nearly doubled the size of the team, integrated some tech, expanded our product range, bought on a new retail partner and a number of new B2B partners.

I have been really impressed by our ability to not only acquire another business, but to merge the two remotely. However, being able to meet people in person was so helpful, and everyone who was present agreed how much better it was, for everyone to be in the same room. It’s just so great to spend time face to face with the team innovating, sharing ideas, and just getting to know everyone.

Whilst I was there, we workshopped ideas on product development, ways of working, now that we are a global business, and also on our Environmental, Social & Corporate governance impact. We all came up with so many ideas that will have significant impact, it was really inspiring to be together with everyone.

As a group, we have started to work with Morelli Consulting to help us maximise our impact in these areas in the best way we can, both across the UK and US businesses. More on this next time!

Back to the Office:

I shared our ambition previously to move to a hybrid working model and get back together as a team in the office, both in the UK & U.S.

This is obviously a hot topic right now and one I’ve been asked to comment/write on a lot through different channels. My view is fairly clear, different things will work for different businesses at different times. We are a high growth, digital business that constantly innovates and whilst nearly everyone’s day to day tasks can be done from home, the energy, and innovative ideas we create when we are together is really powerful and this delivers so much more for us than just BAU.

We are also really proud of the exposure and internal development opportunities we provide for our teams, and the feedback we have from our colleagues in junior roles is that they find this much harder to explore remotely than when they can talk to people in person. The result of this, for us, is a hybrid model with some framework, but also flexibility. Everybody is back in the office at least 2 days a week, the days are flexible, and we encourage the teams to check with their colleagues for collaboration. We also have flexi time so the team can flex their start and finish times each day. We have all our COVID secure measures in place and will continuously review this going forward. For us, this practice works for now.

Creating Extraordinary Leaders:

The past couple of years has been challenging for most of us in many ways and one of the most intense tests I have found, is on my leadership skills. I am a firm believer that the way we lead our teams/colleagues/business has a huge impact on not only their ability to deliver what’s expected of them in their current role, but also to shape the future leaders they will become. I have had some amazing mentors throughout my career and like to think, I’ve learnt and applied parts of all of them, to shape myself and the leader I am today. I also believe good leaders never stop learning and always embrace change and diversity.

We have partnered with EY Lane4  to support the development of our senior leaders and Friday 12th of November was one for the memory bank. We spent time as a team reminding ourselves why experiences are important, what they teach us and how we can lead and support others when the pressure is on. We were lucky enough to be joined by Greg Searle MBE Mike Hurst Francesca Wilkinson at Dorney Lake.  Not only did we get to row the Olympic Lake with a Gold medallist, but we also learnt how important working together, being in sync and listening to each other really is if you want to go faster! #keepupthepace  Our next session is this week, where we will focus on the difference between managers and leaders and work on how we cascade these learnings through our business to our promising future leaders.

That’s a wrap from me today, I’ll be back in the New Year with some more updates. If there is something particular, you’d like to hear from me about, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to include.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


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