Interview: Tom Owen, MD of Better Decisions Group
We’ve had the privilege of interviewing Tom Owen who has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious People in Retail Awards.
Please talk us through your background?
Growing up in a family with an entrepreneurial spirit, I was exposed to the world of business from a young age. My father owned a pub, and that experience sparked my interest in commerce. As a kid, I found ways to sell pub merchandise like Guinness keyrings to my classmates and teachers. Education, while important, felt like an obstacle in my eagerness to dive into the business world.
Despite my parents’ encouragement to pursue education, my eagerness to jump into the business world remained steadfast. I pursued a degree in economics at university, but I was counting down the days until I could step into the business world. I applied for a graduate role at Tesco HQ, where my journey truly began. While I stumbled during an assessment day case study exercise, my ability to think on my feet seemed to impress them, leading to my entry into the Tesco team.
A merchandising career at Tesco suited me well. I was good with numbers, and I embraced and loved the fast-paced, feedback-driven nature of the retail world. I soaked up promotions and responsibilities with enthusiasm, propelling my career forward. Looking back, I might have been insufferably enthusiastic, but it fueled my career trajectory.
After a few years, my curiosity extended beyond Tesco. This led me to Capgemini, where I gained exposure to various businesses like Homebase and M&S. Despite this, my strong attachment to my Tesco team and the friendships I’d built eventually drew me back when I was offered a project there.
Relationships emerged as a cornerstone of my journey. Loyalty to colleagues and bonds formed at Tesco guided my decisions, even when commercial logic may have suggested otherwise. These relationships were integral to my path, fostering growth and success.
My journey through consulting imparted valuable lessons, particularly in the art of presentation and packaging. I recognised that combining substance with an appealing presentation is paramount in effectively conveying messages.
Returning to Tesco, I played a pivotal role in launching the company’s European online business from scratch. (Although the venture was later discontinued due to profitability challenges, the experience proved invaluable).
Transitioning to Central HR and later to the food sector humbled me, contributing significantly to my personal and professional growth. My passion for balancing commercial success with a people-oriented approach deepened. Each experience, with its ups and downs, played a role in shaping the professional I am today.
Can you tell us more about Better Decisions Group, your role, and your mission?
Better Decisions Group (bdg) is a software implementation partner that specialises in working with Board International software, primarily focusing on the retail sector. Our mission at bdg is to empower retail businesses by providing tailored software solutions that enhance decision-making processes, streamline operations, and drive growth.
As for my role at bdg, I’m [proudly] the Managing Director. I oversee various aspects of the company’s operations, including project delivery, team management, and strategic partnerships. Collaborating closely with our dedicated team, I ensure that we deliver high-quality solutions to clients while at the same time, working in a collaborative and value-driven way.
My role centers around our core values of fairness, transparency, and a people-centric approach. I believe a company’s success is intertwined with the well-being of its team members and the value it brings to clients. My aim is to align our actions and initiatives with these values, fostering a culture that drives business growth while positively impacting those we work with.
The alignment of values has significantly influenced my journey at bdg. When I joined the company, I sensed a distinctive atmosphere compared to past experiences. While some differences can be attributed to company size and individuals, it’s evident that the leadership’s approach resonates closely with my own values and to me, that’s really been important.
At bdg, our decision-making process goes beyond the “what” and “why,” considering how choices impact people. This philosophy is evident in how we treat team members, clients, and interactions with clients’ teams. Christian, the co-founder of bdg, embodies these values. His commitment to fairness and principled decisions sets the tone. For instance, our practice of always paying invoices on time reflects a dedication to respecting others’ time and efforts.
This alignment’s impact on bdg’s growth has been substantial. It has built a united team motivated not just by commercial success, but shared values. This foundation has empowered us to scale, expand, and work toward ambitious goals. I’m really proud of this.
It can’t all have been easy! What have been some of the challenges?
Challenges have been part of the journey. For one, scaling a team requires meticulous attention to individuals’ dynamics, strengths, and even their color-coded personalities. It also requires processes – something as a young business we just didn’t have in place yet. We’ve invested in building the processes and understanding the nuances of people to build a harmonious and efficient team. Our focus on establishing policies that prioritise fairness and well-being—both for our people and commercial viability—has been essential.
What about the challenges of the retail industry itself?
The retail industry presents distinct challenges, notably the paradox of investing in underperforming areas. Knowing when and where to ‘tighten the belt’ and is always complex. Balancing cost-cutting with strategic investments for sustained success remains challenging. Equally important is choosing the right partners and aligning expertise. Partnering with vendors who understand industry intricacies and align with unique business needs is pivotal. We really ‘get’ retail because we come from retail and so we find that we’re able to help retailers make well-informed decisions.
Board, the software that is a critical enabler for both bdg and the Retail industry, plays a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. It empowers businesses with the capability to answer complex questions and offers insights that improve business performance. Our disciplined agile approach at bdg combines the power of Board’s technology with our expertise, enabling swift implementations of retail-tailored solutions. This partnership helps us to streamline operations, enhance decision-making, and nurture growth.
In essence, bdg bridges gaps by offering expertise and solutions that tackle retail industry challenges, all powered by the capabilities of Board software. We empower businesses to make informed decisions, optimise processes, and navigate the dynamic landscape effectively.
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