Shaper: Mark Adlestone

Show aired on 18th March 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Laura Mvula and The Metropole Orchestra with Green Garden. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I am Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them we bring someone who is shaping the world of business and I am really happy to say that my Business Shaper today and we call them Business Shapers by the way, my Business Shaper today is Mark Adlestone and he is the chairman of Beaverbrooks and if you haven’t been in a Beaverbrooks store I would challenge you that you should be and I would be amazed if you hadn’t in fact because they are all over the country and they are almost a hundred years old, I just realised so 2019 will be a big year for them. You will be hearing lots from Mark very shortly. In addition to hearing from Mark you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we have got the music and it is fantastic today, Astrud Gilberto is in there, Bobby Womack is in there, Cuban vocalist Daymé Arocena is there and so is Mr Gregory Porter.

That was Gregory Porter with Hey Laura. Mark Adlestone is my Business Shaper here on Jazz Shapers, he is the chairman of Beaverbrooks and Beaverbrooks is almost a hundred years old as I said, turnover of north of a hundred million pounds comfortably, almost I think, well around nine hundred employees and they are in the jewellery business just in case you haven’t been awake and walking around most streets in England. Thank you so much…

Mark Adlestone
And Scotland.

Elliot Moss
…and Scotland.

Mark Adlestone
And Northern Ireland.

Elliot Moss
I was going to say I was thinking the United Kingdom. Mark it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Mark Adlestone
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
It’s a family business that you run. Tell me a little bit about how the family got involved in the jewellery world and then how you got involved?

Mark Adlestone
Okay. So the business was started as you say in 1919 by my grandfather, Isaac and his two brothers, Harry and Maurice and they interestingly started the business in Belfast so it was just after the First World War and things were tough, they needed to find somewhere to start a business and they had a friend over there who had an opportunity for them. So they went over, started selling pretty much out of a suitcase anything they could get their hands on and very quickly developed a proper business if you like and opened their first store around 1920 and sort of built up the business from there. So the first store was in Belfast and then they moved over back to England and developed a team, a number of stores around the North of England. I am the third generation and I got involved in 1979 and I guess that’s where the story started from my point of view.

Elliot Moss
Now you were studying at Oxford I believe. Law Degree?

Mark Adlestone
Jurisprudence.

Elliot Moss
Jurisprudence as they call it. What made you leave and go into the family business at that point?

Mark Adlestone
Great question. I think probably the salient question is why did I go to Oxford to read jurisprudence in the first place and the answer is that the school were very keen for me to do that, it was good for their numbers to get their figures up and I kept saying no actually but eventually they wore me down and I quite liked the idea of what was then seventh term entry, having ten months off to sort I suppose, one would now call it a gap year but such a thing didn’t exist in those days and I was sort of seduced by the whole thing really and I was fortunate enough to get in but then I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I really wanted to read business so I left within the first year and I spoke to my dad saying ‘I’d actually like to go to Manchester now to read business studies’ and he said, ‘I think it is about time you started working son’, you know I would be two years older than everybody else and I didn’t really feel in a great position to argue or a very strong position to argue so I went into the family business at that point.

Elliot Moss
And really briefly, first job in the family business was?

Mark Adlestone
First job was working in the stock room dealing with stock, invoices, just looking at stuff like that but very quickly I actually started going round the stores with the supervisors and that’s where my passion grew very quickly.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out how the passion grew and why the passion grew for Mark Adlestone, chairman of Beaverbrooks, third generation running a phenomenal business. We are going to talk all about their charitable endeavours as well because it is a fantastic story. Time for some more music, this is Astrud Gilberto with Take Me To Aruanda.

Astrud Gilberto with Take Me To Aruanda. Mark Adlestone is my Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers, he is chairman of Beaverbrooks, sixty nine stores, around a hundred and twenty million pounds turnover, a fantastic business and it has been going almost a hundred years and as we said Mark, you are third generation. There’s a number of the family involved and they always have been. Tell me a little bit about that because it is hard enough being in a family let alone working with a family. Tell me how that evolved?

Mark Adlestone
Thanks Elliot. I am very fortunate because my two family partners, my father who is still involved and happy, I mean he is not in all the time by any means, Gerald and my cousin Andrew Brown and they are amazing because they have always given me the opportunity and supported me all the way through to run the business in a particular way and to make the changes that we have made over the years and they have always been very supportive to me.

Elliot Moss
Tell me about, I mean this business has evolved and you became I believe the top guy as it were in 1990, joint… well one of the joint managing directors then.

Mark Adlestone
Yes.

Elliot Moss
You talk about putting your own imprint on the business. Where did you get your… tell me a little bit about what that looks like and where those ideas have come from because as I referred to you very briefly, you give a huge amount of money to charity, I believe it is over ten million pounds in the last fifteen years. Over thirty percent of your work force, your employees are part of the giving-back scheme, I mean extraordinary numbers. Obviously that’s a part of it. What else has informed your approach?

Mark Adlestone
I think it has been a journey to be quite honest Elliot, you know there has been various sort of triggers along the way. I think I have always been informed by talking to people within our organisation and learning from them and them challenging things and actually making me stop and think, actually yeah they are right we should be doing this, why aren’t we doing that, why are we doing this, why aren’t we doing other things and very much my style is very collaborative and very much listen to people within the organisation. And I read and I certainly read a lot of business text and books, the Harvard Business Review about Herzberg, about the theory of motivation, which I read in 1994 but he wrote in 1965 – that blew me away. I read a book by James O’Toole called Leading Change. I read it in 1997 and that informed a lot of the… it was called Leading Change and it was an argument for values based leadership and that informed a lot of my philosophy to some extent and the creation of our mission statement which has subsequently become the Beaverbrooks way and I guess the one thing I would say is that the reason that we exist is obviously as a business is to make profit but why? So I guess it is the why is the question behind it? What do we do with that? And for us it is about enriching lives so enriching the lives of our colleagues who work with us for sure; our customers – they get a great experience; our suppliers – how do we deal with our suppliers? Are we there to try and screw them down to get the very best price we can get or are we more interested in them of course, us getting a fair price but them being there and them being profitable so they can continue to invest and create new product for us to buy in future years and finally and most importantly, or equally importantly, community and charity. So it is a big thing. We made a conscious decision that we would now give 20% of our post-tax, pre-distribution profits to the Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust so this year that will be 1.2 million. Since the year 2000 we are now over eleven million pounds that we’ve given away but it is not just about the money, it’s about the engagement, it’s about the different, you know we would support over two hundred and fifty charities in any one. We are very democratic in the way that we chose those charities so we i.e. if you like senior management team do not dictate where that charity money will go. We have our personal favourites but more importantly we have sixty nine stores, we’ve got fifteen departments at head office who all select their pet charity and we give them a £100 per person to give to those charities and we match fund. As you said before, we are very involved with workplace giving which we are actually founding partners of Give for Giving which is a workplace giving scheme, Salary Sacrifice. We match the funds. It is such an easy thing. It is tax efficient so typically if an employee wants to give £10 a month, it’s done through Salary Sacrifice and the charity would receive around £24 because of our match funding and because of the tax saving. So because of that we really hit a number of charities and we encourage time giving so we give a minimum of two days per year to each employee, I say minimum because where people get really involved we give a lot more than that. We are trying to make a difference to the community around us, to the world around us to some extent and whilst our purpose is enriching lives, we mean it, we truly mean it.

Elliot Moss
These aren’t just words. Much more coming up from my wise and incredibly values based leader as he said and I am now saying, Mark Adlestone, chairman of Beaverbrooks. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom I hope to match those that we have just heard, from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I talk to someone who is shaping the world of business. Today my Business Shaper right here, right now is Mark Adlestone, chairman of Beaverbrooks, a super successful jewellery business and they have been going for a number of years and as you will have heard earlier I hope, Mark has a specific vision of what a company should be like and the kind of responsibility it should take beyond making money and as you said Mark, it’s about the why and I think that’s really critical. Just tell me a little bit about the day-to-day for you because vision is one thing and having those things almost in the bank is another. How do you cope with the stresses and strains of almost around nine hundred people, you’ve got a lot of money to ensure comes through those doors and we are in really, really funny times? What’s it like being the guy at the top?

Mark Adlestone
Well I have got a great team is the first thing I would say, a great senior management team so the pressure if you like and the responsibility is very much a shared responsibility and I think we just work very, very well together you know, it seems to flow, we hold each other accountable, we support each other and I think because of that you know, that sort of pressure if you like, stress, is very much shared and therefore reduced on an individual level.

Elliot Moss
You don’t look stressed, I mean you have been in this business for however many years, you can do the maths, you can tell me quickly because you probably…

Mark Adlestone
Thirty eight years.

Elliot Moss
…thirty eight years. You are never bored right?

Mark Adlestone
No I am never bored because it’s just, it’s… retail is amazing but actually what I love about this business or probably any business truthfully, I mean I happen to be in jewellery but it probably would be the same in any business, is the people within the organisation is the connecting so for me the most important thing that I do is talk to our people. We have got nine hundred and thirty colleagues and it is listening to what they have to say and its actively listening, actively listening to what they have to say and engaging and treating people as individuals, that is critical.

Elliot Moss
Alongside that obviously there is a passion for the jewellery itself and you said, you know, you mentioned earlier on I soon became passionate about this business. What is it about, I mean I love watches, it’s a bit of a… women love watches too but men don’t have as many beautiful sparkly things to look at and a watch for a man seems to mean something significant. What is it for you that you love about the things that you sell?

Mark Adlestone
Well I particularly love diamonds. I think we all have a passion at Beaverbrooks for diamonds because they are eternal and the story of diamonds having been created millions of years ago, I think it is just a fascinating business. The purchasing of diamonds it’s really an old fashioned, the values are very old fashioned. It’s based on trust, you shake hands when you buy a parcel of diamonds. There is no contract. It is beautifully old fashioned in a way and I just love the product and we are very specialist in that so I would say diamonds particularly appeal to me and obviously to our team as well.

Elliot Moss
Lots more coming up from Mark, my Business Shaper today, that’s Mark Adlestone, chairman of Beaverbrooks. Time for some more music, this is Daymé Arocena with Mambo Na’má.

That was Daymé Arocena with Mambo Na’má. Mark we have been talking about your leadership and what happens when you are very good at what you do is that people recognise it and you’ve been recognised a number of times by various different awards and I am not going to embarrass you because you don’t look like the type that would enjoy all the compliments, at least not publically. When you do get those awards, how do you cope with it? How do you cope with success because you know there are many, many people who don’t achieve anything like the levels of success that you and the family and your business have achieved. Success is a funny old thing, how do you keep grounded?

Mark Adlestone
Well I remember the first time we had success at the Best Companies, we went in for the very first time, we came second on the night and won the Leadership award and it was really strange Elliot, it was almost as if it was happening in parallel to me. I couldn’t quite relate to the fact that this was actually our company and me and I guess I compartmentalise it is the only way I can put it. I don’t recognise myself if that makes sense as the recipient of those awards. In fact Anna who is our chief executive often says to me, you have no idea. I mean I hear what she is saying but I struggle to internalise it. You have got no idea of the impact of whatever that you have and I guess that’s just the way it is. So for me, I am just me, you know, I am still, I am still the twenty one year old that I was however many years ago, thirty seven years ago.

Elliot Moss
I mean you are… just your humility strikes me and I am not trying to embarrass you and I can see it is actually quite emotional for you as well when you think about this and I am lucky enough that I am chatting to you and you have got nine hundred people that probably don’t spend quite as long with you as I am now. What is it that you try and impart to them apart from listening and I can see that listening is important. Many people talk about role models and again it’s a bit clichéd because we talk about public people being role models but actually it looks like you are. What’s kept you so focussed on what’s important to you and your values and your principles? Why are you you do you think?

Mark Adlestone
It is a really difficult one. I don’t know why I am me but what I can say is the first part of your question is what keeps me motivate and the truth is it’s the people within the organisation that keep me motivated, that’s my passion, that’s my number one passion and I love the fact that we are excellent at developing people from within our organisation. We have our own management development programme and even if people don’t want to go into management, we promote from within. That’s a hugely strong thing that we do which promotes tacit knowledge and I think we have a very unusual culture within Beaverbrooks and I just love that fact and I just want it to continue.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for mine final chat with Mark plus we will be playing track from Bobby Womack. That’s after the latest traffic and travel.

That was Bobby Womack with California Dreaming. Mark Adlestone is my Business Shaper just for a few more minutes before he talks about his song choice. Your business is super successful, you’ve been in the business thirty eight years, you’ve got amazing values, people respect the business, they respect you and the family members who are running the business around you. I imagine you are going, when I ask you, you are not going to stop but what else is there to achieve? Is it just more of the same? Is it we just keep our values or is there something else that you are looking for? Is there another evolution of Beaverbrooks?

Mark Adlestone
I don’t know where Beaverbrooks is going to be in the future but I want to try and create or ensure that the business, as much as is possible, maintains its culture. I am going to say in perpetuity, I mean that sound ridiculous but that’s sort of what really inspires me and drives me and motivates me and I need to find a way to do that to almost enshrine those values to make sure that that is always protected.

Elliot Moss
And if enshrining values and I think that must be right because your business is predicated on those values and that’s what makes it so strong. If, without being political and I don’t mean party political, if you were able to affect the political environment with those very values, how would you go about helping British business, United Kingdom business in becoming more like Beaverbrooks? And I don’t mean that that you wouldn’t be so arrogant to think they would want to be but just that understanding of community, that understanding of culture, that understanding of listening and all that. How would you go about it?

Mark Adlestone
How would I go about it? That would be really tricky but what I would try and inspire and I do to some extent when I speak externally to a number of different organisations and business groups, talk about authenticity, talk about the why, talk about purpose, talk about the business. For capitalism to be successful it needs to be more, it needs to be more than just about money. It needs to be about morality and I think sort of recognising, for business people to recognise the importance of morality, not just the letter of the law which is quite, quite different it is actually, actually beyond, it’s actually beyond the letter of the law and sort of trying to inspire people to realise that that’s what it’s all about would be what I would try and achieve.

Elliot Moss
You’re hired. You’re in. We are going to talk to the right people Mark. Listen it has been a real privilege as I said earlier talking to you, it’s a brilliant business and I hope in perpetuity it continues. Just before I let you go though, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Mark Adlestone
My song choice is David Bowie, Lazarus from his final masterpiece, Black Star. I’ve loved David Bowie’s music from 1972 Ziggy Stardust. I’ve got almost all his twenty five albums. He was the first concert I saw at the Preston Guildhall in 1973, I was mesmerised. When he died it was almost prescient, you know he starts… this song starts ‘look up here I am in heaven’ it was almost life imitating art imitating death. Remarkable and an incredible jazz, the Donny Mccaslin quartet who work with him on this album, it’s an amazing album and that’s why it is my choice.

Elliot Moss
Here it is just for you.

That was David Bowie with the poignant Lazarus, the song choice of my Business Shaper today Mark Adlestone; the most humble person or one of the most humble people I think I have met here on Jazz Shapers, an immensely successful business based on his values driven approach and as he said, someone who believes firmly that capitalism is not just about making money, it’s about purpose and it’s also about morality and I think that’s absolutely right. Do join me again same time, same place, that’s next Saturday 9.00am here on Jazz FM for another edition of Jazz Shapers. Meanwhile stay with us, you know who is coming up next it’s Mr Nigel Williams.

Mark Adlestone

Mark Adlestone is Chairman of Beaverbrooks the Jewellers. Mark joined the Company in 1979, became Joint Managing Director in 1990, sole Managing Director in 2000 and Chairman in 2012. Beaverbrooks currently has 69 stores nationwide, trading in the middle to upper market, and stocking watch brands such as Omega, Breitling, TAG Heuer, Bremont and Tudor.

Beaverbrooks is particularly proud of its culture, which encourages managers to truly listen to, care for, support and develop its people. The company donates 20% of its net profit annually gives each person two days per year of paid time to work for a charity of their choice.

Since the year 2000, Beaverbrooks has donated more than £10 million to over 400 charities.

In October 2015 Mark was presented with the OBE by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace for ‘Services to Business and Charity in the North of England’.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

The business was started in 1919 by my grandfather, Isaac and his two brothers, Harry and Maurice…it was just after the First World War and things were tough.

I think probably the salient question is why did I go to Oxford to read jurisprudence in the first place..?

We made a conscious decision that we would give 20% of our post-tax, pre-distribution profits to the Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust, so this year that will be £1.2 million.

We are trying to make a difference to the community around us, to the world around us to some extent, and whilst our purpose is enriching lives, we mean it, we truly mean it.

The purchasing of diamonds… it’s really old fashioned, the values are very old fashioned. It’s based on trust, you shake hands when you buy a parcel of diamonds. There is no contract. It is beautifully old fashioned.

It’s the people within the organisation that keep me motivated, that’s my passion, that’s my number one passion and I love the fact that we are excellent at developing people from within our organisation.

I want to try and create or ensure that the business, as much as is possible, maintains its culture. I am going to say in perpetuity, I mean that sounds ridiculous but that’s sort of what really inspires me and drives me and motivates me.

For capitalism to be successful it needs to be more than just about money. It needs to be about morality.