Workplace360: Let’s start with a brief introduction to you both, and how you’ve become co-Chairs of BOSS Leaders of the Future (LOTR).
Rachael Lewis: I am the Sales Operations Director at OT Group which is a broad remit covering the customer lifecycle – all pricing, tenders, sales support, reports and large projects including new customer implementations.
In terms of LOTF, I’ve been a committee member for three years and joined after only six months of entering the business supplies industry. I love the ambition of the group and what it achieves, so when the position of Chair became available, I went for it full of excitement.
W360: What’s your story, Alex?
Alex Stone: I am now coming up to my tenth anniversary after joining the industry straight from university. I was recently promoted to Sales Director at Office Friendly, having worked in various sales and marketing roles at the dealer group. I’ve been a member of the LOTF committee for around five years.
Since entering the industry, I have consistently sought guidance from the experts around me who have offered their time, enabling me to learn and develop my career. Ten years in, becoming LOTF co-Chair is my opportunity to start giving back to an industry that has been so kind to me.
W360: LOTF is a BOSS-led initiative. What is the involvement of the association?
RL: BOSS Federation CEO Amy Hutchinson and her team are passionate about the industry and massively invested in what we’re doing and helping to drive the committee forward. BOSS Chairman Simon Drakeford plays an active role in all our face-to-face events.
W360: For anyone reading this who may not know much about LOTF, what’s it all about?
RL: The LOTF mission statement is ‘Leading, Guiding, Connecting, Shaping’. The committee supports this through the growth of the talent pipeline and utilising the knowledge and experience of workplace supplies senior executives and key speakers and trainers from outside the industry.
Our focus is on safeguarding the future of our industry by fostering the retention and development of individuals through a combination of conferences, webinars and networking. We have around 200 members and 11 committee members.
AS: I believe we are quite unique as an industry as no matter whether you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler or dealer, or who you work for, it’s a community that comes together. LOTF builds on this by finding people’s best potential, consistently investing in them and challenging the status quo at times – asking the difficult questions such as what the industry represents and where we are going as a collective. LOTF provides an open and safe platform to do this.
Concerning membership demographics, most individuals work for larger manufacturers and wholesalers. We are trying to encourage participation from smaller businesses, and I have a personal ambition to grow the dealer side of the group.
Typical members are people with a mindset to be the best version of themselves. They are excited about the industry and want to grow within it. LOTF is open to anyone who aspires to be a future leader, and there are no restrictions. It’s about bringing together like-minded individuals and providing the skill sets required to achieve this.
W360: The committee has created a two-year roadmap – Building the Best Version of You. Please explain your plans.
AS: I encounter individuals from all walks of life who haven’t yet adopted a proactive approach to their advancement – whether it be developing happiness in their work, life or health. Our aim is to build a structure that effectively stops members from sleepwalking through their careers and pushes them to start thinking about where they want to go, how they are going to get there, their strengths and weaknesses, and what tools are required to move from A to B.
After two years of embarking on a journey of self-development, we want everyone to ‘graduate’ together as a community. The roadmap is designed to achieve this.
RL: It’s about setting goals – not just as a committee, but individually. I’d also like to stress that we welcome people to join LOTF at any point along the journey.
The roadmap represents a three-layered approach. The first involves self-awareness, what makes you tick, and feeling good at work and in life. The second is about personal development including setting goals and striving for success, and the final layer is the application of leadership skills. Ultimately, to be an inspirational leader, you need to be strong as a person, possess coping techniques when it’s challenging, collaborate, know what your goals are and drive hard to achieve them.
Each year will feature at least two webinars and two face-to-face conferences, with one always aligned with the BOSS Awards.
To put the roadmap into context, our first webinar was with Office Specialities Managing Director Chris Kemp, who talked about how to set and execute goals and hold yourself accountable. At our last conference, the keynote speaker was Leanne Spencer, who outlined how to beat burnout and perform in life and work. Roundtables were led by industry pioneers and incorporated some of our leadership topics. There is already a fantastic network of senior industry executives who assist in our endeavour to inspire our community, but we’re certainly keen to grow this aspect.
W360: Any final thoughts?
RL: It’s critical that our industry retains its high-calibre pool, especially with such a competitive jobs market. Individuals who understand the sector and aren’t stuck in their day-to-day business bubble are more likely to stay. I believe there will be ‘lifers’ in our industry and we need a community such as LOTF to support engagement and grow talent.
Businesses must also realise that we need to innovate, evolve with technology and diversify product ranges. Achieving this involves nurturing our existing young achievers because the future of the industry relies on dedicated and enthusiastic people to drive it forward.
AS: Whenever I speak to senior executives and ask them what they love about our industry the most and why they’ve worked in it so long, it’s almost always about the people they work with because they’ve been part of such an incredible community for many years. This is what we’re aiming for with LOTF – to develop the next-generation network of business supplies leaders. The committee is deeply dedicated to gathering good people together to spend quality time supporting and helping each other advance.
If businesses want to retain talent from younger generations, they need to make them feel like they’re part of the wider industry. Provide a vision, a decent value proposition and investment in those individuals. It’s as simple as that.
BOSS CEO Amy Hutchinson:
I feel strongly that for individuals to succeed within an industry, they need a community to support them on their journey. A network that spans the whole supply chain, can offer insight and guidance and highlight opportunities.
The BOSS LOTF committee has established exactly this for future leaders in our sector who are looking to grow. BOSS is 100% behind them in helping to achieve this goal under the excellent leadership of Rachael Lewis and Alex Stone.
I’d encourage all current heads of business to get their teams involved in LOTF to enhance their peer-to-peer networks and learn relevant and transferable leadership skills by participating in dynamic events.
Leaders of the Future Committee:
- Co-Chair: Alex Stone, Sales Director, Office Friendly
- Co-Chair: Rachael Lewis, Sales Operations Director, OT Group
- Scott Castle, Head of Campaign Marketing, EVO
- Emily Jones, Head of Sales Retail, Fellowes Brands
- Jack Massey, Membership Advisor, BOSS Federation
- Hannah Elverson, IT Project Manager, OT Group
- James Day, Sales and Marketing Director, Durable
- Jason Jones, Customer Business Manager, Nestlé Professional
- Kristian Danielson, Key Account Manager, BIC
- Amy Remmer, Account Director, VOW Wholesale
- Elissa Macinnes, National Account Manager and Innovation Ambassador, Lyreco UK