In this new series of interviews with our Volunteer Advisors, we dig a little deeper into their experiences as a CEO, their views on building ‘better’ businesses and their ‘Three Things’ advice for other CEOs.

Tom, the CEO

Tom is currently the founder and CEO at Georgie and Tom’s, a company boasting the highest quality fully prepared meals in the world. His former roles include CEO of Charlie Bigham’s in the UK and CEO of Hello Fresh USA.

He believes there are three things that make someone a CEO:

  1. A wide interest in many aspects of business and how they work together.

  2. Enjoying – and being good – at building teams.

  3. The desire to take ultimate responsibility for performance.

But one thing about our chat with Tom really stood out: how close he gets to his customers. In Tom’s current business, Georgie & Tom’s, he doesn’t have a customer services team, instead answering all customer emails personally at the beginning and end of each day. Not only does this keep him super close to his customers’ experiences, he is also personally incentivised to drive the team in delivering a great product and superb value to his customers, minimising complaints and enquiries. Tom has no immediate plans to hire a customer services team. “I believe that with a modest improvement in my productivity, and the plans we have for improving our business, I can continue to handle all customer enquiries until the end of next year at least”.

Georgie & Tom’s is a direct to consumer prepared food start-up in the US, and on the surface it looks to be the result of an expertly planned career. His first two roles gave him the foundations in brand management and performance marketing – the bedrock of building a new d2c business. From here he got his first lessons in founding his own business before spending 7 years running the leading prepared meals business in the UK, Charlie Bigham’s. In truth, Tom says, there was only one really strategic decision in his career – his move to Amazon in 2000: ‘it was obvious to me that e-commerce was going to be the future of retailing… so I joined for that reason.’

Tom’s CV//

2019-present: Georgie & Tom’s – Co-Founder & CEO

2018-19: Sun Basket – EVP & GM

2017-18: Hello Fresh USA – CEO

2009-16: Charlie Bigham’s – CEO

2002-09: Fresh Italy – Founder & CEO

2000-02: Amazon – VP Brand & Growth Marketing Europe

1984-2000: Unilever – brand, marketing and strategy roles

At All Together, we know the job of being a CEO can be a lonely one. Even the most experienced CEOs, such as Tom, have people to turn to when they need advice and support. Tom lists two people who have been the most supportive mentors for him. Firstly, his wife Sue who “unfortunately gets dragged into minute discussions about lots of things”. Secondly his mentor, Allen Leighton, who worked as a NED at Charlie Bigham’s. “One of the best pieces of business advice I got from Allen was ‘position and listen’: ‘listen’ to what is being said to you entirely, and only when the other person is finished should you ‘position’ what you think back.”

Tom on ‘Better Business’

Tom is in no doubt that business should be run for the benefit of society, and chose to form his company as a Public Benefit Corporation. This means that the purpose of the company is a public benefit, which in Georgie & Tom’s case is to help customers improve their health.

From there, Tom’s approach is a blueprint for Better Business, both for planet and society: they have committed to being carbon neutral by 2030, are aligned to several of the UN’s sustainable development goals, pay the Living Wage ($16.50 in the US) and they intend for every employee to be a shareholder in the company, holding real equity. Tom is also planning the process of becoming B-Corp certified.

Tom’s “Three Things”

At All Together, we often ask our Advisors for ‘Three Things’ – three pieces of actionable advice that CEOs of SMEs can apply to their businesses today. Tom has chosen to offer his Three Things around building a D2C brand, although they could equally be applied to most businesses.

number 1

Focus on a very narrow subset of consumers

Too many people say they are going to change the world and change everybody in it, but whole industries can’t be controlled by one brand. It is not in human nature. In reality, you need to do the opposite: focus on a narrow subset, and understand them deeply. If you do this effectively, you should be able to meet the needs of that subset perfectly.

number 2

You must win objectively on the product and service for that audience

You’ve got to have cold, hard data on whether you are getting better on the things that matter to your customer. It’s important to continue improving your products all the time: your best selling product is never finished. If you aren’t the best, you won’t succeed.

number 3

Don’t think that discounts change customer behaviour

They don’t. Discounts buy customer behaviour for as long as you buy the customer’s behaviour. You can’t train customers to do what you would like them to do, or change them to be who you want them to be.

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To dig deeper into Tom’s career, his views on being a CEO and his Three Things, you can listen to the whole conversation between Tom and Jamie Mitchell, All Together’s co-founder, here.