An Interview with Lightspeed’s GM, Ana Wight on navigating growth, innovation and impact
In this interview, we talk exclusively to Ana Wight, Lightspeed’s General Manager for Retail.
Ana discusses aligning diverse aspects of the company, global operations, the unique culture, her leadership style, and how Lightspeed maintains startup agility at scale.
Can you share more about your background and your role as General Manager Lightspeed?
My background has always been in the tech, media and telco sectors. Before taking on the role of General Manager for Retail at Lightspeed, I served as the CFO of Vend since 2017 and subsequently as the CEO from 2020 until its acquisition by Lightspeed in 2021. Prior to my time at Vend, I was Head of Strategy, Advertising & Online for Microsoft in the UK. I also worked with McKinsey & Company as a Senior VP of Recovery & Transformation Services.
Now, as the GM at Lightspeed, I draw on these experiences to drive the company’s success and contribute to its ongoing growth and innovation. My role is to act as the glue, ensuring alignment from product and technology to marketing and sales, to customers – both internally and externally. Lightspeed has a clear vision and set of values that act as our North Star.
Beyond the overarching vision, my role involves translating this into practical outcomes for the next 18 months or so. This requires a balance between the big picture and the immediate priorities, ensuring our teams have clarity and context to execute effectively.
How does being a global business impact your day-to-day operations, and how do you ensure alignment across different regions?
Being global involves a commitment to travel and maintaining a clear operating model. Collaboration with regional leaders is key to ensuring alignment. Having a purposeful approach to face-to-face interactions and a well-defined operating model helps maintain consistency and clarity across different regions.
How does the company culture at Lightspeed contribute to its success?
Lightspeed’s personality revolves around great people who are obsessed with delivering value to customers and building a company that people are proud to be a part of. The culture is free from politics, focused on customer-centricity, and driven by a collective passion for building an exceptional company.
Maintaining a balance of accountability and autonomy involves providing a clear framework and context. Leadership plays a crucial role in setting priorities, creating a culture where individuals have the freedom to excel, and ensuring a cohesive strategy. This enables great people to contribute their best work while staying aligned with the company’s goals. This is what has helped us build such a dynamic and performance-oriented culture.
A Day in the Life of Ana Wight… what does that look like?
A typical day involves external engagements like interviews or investor-related activities, collaboration with internal teams on roadmaps, and a focus on operational results. I spend time on both short-term and long-term aspects, ensuring a balance between project thinking and day-to-day execution. Additionally, I allocate time to collaborate with colleagues in other areas for diverse perspectives.
If your team were to describe you, how do you think they would characterise you?
I’ve recently asked the team this very question! They would describe me as strategic, data-driven, customer-focused, and people-first. My leadership style emphasises the importance of thinking ahead, relying on data for decision-making, keeping a customer-centric perspective, and prioritizing the well-being and development of the team.
You mentioned being “people first.” How do you bring this to life?
Creating an environment where people feel empowered and excited about their work involves focusing on their development and providing opportunities. I want the team to thrive, feel excited about the work they’re doing, and see their contributions as making a meaningful impact. It’s about creating a culture where everyone feels they are doing the best work of their lives.
Could you provide examples of how you’re working to maintain the agility and velocity of a startup while operating at a larger scale?
Building scalable systems involves ensuring knowledge transfer and creating ways for the company to operate effectively as it grows. This includes developing operating models that preserve the company’s culture, magic, and velocity. I spend time iterating the operating model to accommodate growth without losing the core aspects that make Lightspeed unique.
Looking ahead as we continue to scale, maintaining that feeling of every contribution making a significant impact will be crucial. Challenges and opportunities will emerge, but having great people and a culture focused on a greater purpose gives us confidence that we can navigate and shape our trajectory effectively.
Can you share a specific instance where Lightspeed made a significant impact on a customer’s business strategy, such as the example with Neal’s Yard Remedies?
In the UK, Neal’s Yard Remedies, who specialise in organic body and skincare products, faced the challenge of outdated technology hindering their digital transformation. Lightspeed provided the solution, offering an efficient retail ePOS and embedded payments system that aligned with their global expansion plans. From loyalty to gift cards to inventory management, Neal’s Yard now thrives with the flexibility and depth of Lightspeed’s Marketing and Loyalty features.
We push really hard to create tangible outcomes that positively influence our customers’ experiences and business strategies.
What excites you the most about your role at Lightspeed, and what philosophy guides you in leading the company toward its goals?
What excites me the most is the opportunity to change the outcome for the industry – our customer – and Lightspeed as a company, every day. My core belief is that when you have great people, everything is possible. Building an energising environment where everyone is contributing to something greater and creating an impact is what drives me and the entire team at Lightspeed.