Matt Harrison's Leadership Journey: A Blend of Vision, Strategy, and Growth

Matt Harrison, nine months into his role as Channels Director for M&S Foods, shares insights into his career, the exciting developments within the Channels team and the culture at M&S. With a background spanning both corporate and entrepreneurial businesses, Matt’s varied skills are shaping the future of M&S in the competitive retail landscape.  

Matt, tell us more about your background  

I started my career on the Asda graduate scheme, progressing to leading commercial teams and worked my way up to Chief of Staff for the CEO. However, I felt the need to be more well-rounded in my skills, so I started a retail consultancy and investment company which then turned in to starting my own sports nutrition brand which I scaled and sold out of. The combination of corporate and entrepreneurial experiences I’ve had has shaped me professionally, allowing me to bring a fresh perspective to the future of M&S.  

Tell us more about your role at M&S?  

The Channels team sits within M&S Food and looks after our high-profile, strategic external partnerships. Channels is made up of three parts:  

·       Ocado – which is where our customers can buy M&S Food online across the UK and a business that is M&S is the joint owner of.   

·       International Wholesale – such as our partnership with Target in the US and,  

·       Convenience stores – which are all the small M&S stores which customer will see in airports, petrol stations, hospitals and train stations including our amazing renewal store in Waterloo!  

My team and I are responsible for maximising the best of M&S and our partners through collaboration and innovative ideas, helping to grow our business outside of our traditional stores. We have a lot of different responsibilities and stakeholders to juggle but that’s exactly what keeps our team excited!  

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You’ve been with the business for 9 months now. What have you learnt so far?  

In the first six months at M&S, understanding the organisation's DNA and the dynamics of the team was crucial. The role was new so like a blank canvas, giving me the opportunity to shape the future vision and strategy entirely and bring the team on that journey. It was clear to me that I had an amazing role with fantastic opportunities for growth, but I couldn’t do it alone and I needed to achieve some quick wins to make an immediate impact to help galvanise the team. I focused on laying the foundations and building strong relationships with our partner organisations to secure our future success, before turning my attention to the team.  

One of my key priorities has been setting the foundations of becoming a high performing team, and I'm proud that 10% of them have already been promoted since I joined. This showcases our commitment to internal talent, development and progression. I'm passionate about creating opportunities for diverse talent and believe in building our people up, enabling them to develop into growth roles within the company and encouraging them to learn from our partners. My vision for the Channels is to make them central to our growth ambitions across M&S, changing the way we see ourselves and creating an ‘incubator’ of talent who can become our future leaders.  

 

What projects are you currently working on?  

We’ve got some really exciting plans ahead - from doubling the size of our Convenience store business to growing our presence online via Ocado. We're also replicating our successful blueprints, like our partnership with Target is the US. There’s a lot to do and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far but in the words of our CEO, Stuart, I’ll always be “positively dissatisfied”. 

What I love about Channels is the possibility to make a tangible impact and introduce new and exciting ways for us to sell our products. You also get the opportunity to learn, not just from M&S but also from our external partners and the way they do business. Working in Channels is unique - there aren’t many jobs where you can look back and reflect on the big changes and ideas you’ve helped to implement.  

Why do you think M&S is a good place to work?  

The culture here is brilliant. People turn up every day to do an amazing job. Everyone is hungry (excuse the pun), curious and ambitious to grow the business and deliver for our customers. It’s an exciting place to work because it gives you career options rather than keeping you stuck in one role. We want our colleagues to move around the business, learn the ropes and progress into leadership roles. With the support that the M&S offers, it’s an environment where everyone can succeed.  

M&S is nearly 140 years old and has stood the test of time. We’ve done that through being innovative and acting with pace but also balancing that with long-term thinking and always doing what’s right. 

Register your interest for future opportunities within our Channels team here.

 

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