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Life on the ‘Dark Side’

Sunday January 10th 2016

Commentary by Dave Derby Head of Operations, Evoke Creative Ltd

There I was, in a senior position in one of the UK’s most successful Omni-channel retailers of recent times, on an upward curve in terms of innovation and technological advance, with a queue of vendors knocking at my door hoping I would select them as the next game changer.

That constant stream of suppliers making advances were all part of what we affectionately called the ‘Dark Side’. Full of not so persuasive executives in suits with quarterly targets to hit ready to bend over backwards to do you the deal that could ‘get me the sack if my boss knew I was agreeing to this’! Power point Stormtroopers ready to answer every question in the affirmative to keep you on the hook regardless of the evil that could be bestowed on your company once their solution is implemented. But amongst the cosmic smoke and mirrors, every now and again a vendor appeared who completely understood what your challenges were, they empathised with how difficult your plight was, they didn’t promise to solve your issues 1000% or charge you extortionately for their solution. These companies are very few and far between but they were like intergalactic gold dust when you found one.

In the 14 years I was courted by more suppliers than I can remember, only half a dozen have fallen into that category of game changers. Not necessarily because their product was ground breaking, or unique, or at the bleeding edge of technology. More to do with how they modestly offered their solution, the way they presented themselves, the professionally respectful way no false promises were made during pre-sales and ultimately the brilliant collaborative delivery of a solution which would prove to be mutually beneficial at a price that was affordable.

I now work for one such vendor and have surrendered my Jedi retailer status for a seat at the table with the manufacturing Empire……..or have I? I have joined a company who produce brilliant products with an innovative mind set and an incredibly agile methodology. A collective of enthusiastic, like-minded, strategic thinkers who get to the crux of a customer’s requirements before offering a solution which is more often than not bespoke to them. Solutions provided by Evoke Creative must add value and continue to improve, standing still for too long is a thing of the past, we will push all of our customers to look forward to ensure they don’t linger and be overtaken.

Before you all shout at once, I am not a VP of Sales or a National Sales Manager or a Sales Executive of any description. With over 50 successful retail projects under my belt,.. my experience of innovation, solution architecture, implementation design, project delivery, business change management and ‘rolling up my sleeves to get the job done-ability’ is being used initially on the operational side of the business to make the solutions we produce even more cost effective for our customers.

However with decades of design experience, a quality production and support infrastructure and retail talent attracted from Sainsbury’s and JD Sports to strengthen Evokes understanding of our customers’ needs the switch to being a supplier has been a seamless one so far. In the past 4 months I have been asked many times why I moved and whether it was a difficult decision. Of course after such a long time with a respected and successful PLC it was bound to be a huge decision and a massive change. As a challenge it has been equally fulfilling and although retail and manufacturing are significantly different ultimately it all boils down to excellent products, talented people and robust processes.

I have come to learn in a very short space of time that the ‘Dark Side’ isn’t necessarily that dark after all!