With over 20 years’ experience working in the retail technology industry, Roger has brought a wealth of experience to Vista since he joined us in March of this year. We sat down with Roger to chat to him about his experience so far as Account Director, what attracted him to Vista, as well as some of the biggest trends and challenges he expects retail to face in the near future…
What can you tell us about your experience in the retail industry?
My background in retail goes all the way back to when I was about 15 years old. I had a Saturday job and evening job over the Christmas period in a high street store called Studio Menswear, which was part of the Burton group. This is where my foray into retail first started, and where I first caught the retail bug!
When I left school, I went to work in a different type of retail, where I found myself working for Thomas Cook. I was still working in frontline retail but rather than selling fashion I was selling holidays. From here, I transitioned into an IT role at Thomas Cook head office for a couple of years as a Business Analyst.
In the mid-nineties, I then moved to a company called Compass Retail Associates, which eventually became Retail Assist, and I held a variety of roles there for almost 20 years! I’ve never been specifically technical, I’ve managed technical teams, but it’s always been operational delivery or commercial roles for me.
What is your role at Vista and what does your day-to-day look like?
My role at Vista is all-encompassing as Account Director. My responsibilities are mainly threefold – I look after one of Vista’s largest accounts, I manage the relationship with several of Vista’s new strategic partners and I support the board with strategy for existing accounts as well as the Account teams in terms of customer retention and growth.
What sparked your decision to join Vista in your latest career move?
Vista is a company that I have worked alongside for well over two decades and I have always known the company very well. Culturally, it’s very aligned to me as it’s very much a people business and I found that really appealing. The business has really evolved (and will continue to evolve) from a traditional break-fix business into more of an end-to-end Managed Services business, which is where I have a wealth of knowledge and experience and hence was well placed to support the next stage of growth and beyond.
How would you describe your experience at Vista so far?
I joined Vista at the beginning of March, and within about 3-4 weeks, the world changed massively! Vista had also just recently won a major new account and then the world completely changed. I went from joining a new company, being in Cardiff every week amongst colleagues and really getting to know the business, to being at home 24/7 whilst also managing this major account.
I’ve probably been the busiest I’ve ever been in recent months. It’s been a challenge of course, because the nature of what we do makes it easier to have that personal interaction that you get daily at the office, so having to adapt was certainly tough at first. Fortunately, I am experienced in what I do and I have worked in many similar roles where I have worked at home so this wasn’t totally alien to me and I was able to adapt fairly quickly.
The other big challenge I had was that the account I manage was one of the few retailers throughout the beginning of lockdown that provided essential goods to the public, which made Vista’s services even more critical to this business.
What do you like most about your job?
For me, it’s working with the people I get to work with every day and the culture of the company. Not only this, but also the fantastic customers I get to work with each day!
What would you say is your favourite thing about working in the industry?
Definitely how dynamic the industry is, no two days are the same! It doesn’t stand still for very long, it’s always moving. I also like how it has always been challenged and yet it’s such a resilient industry, which makes it really exciting to be a part of.
What are some of the key trends you expect to see in retail in the near future?
The most important thing in retail is the customer, and they are always going to be at the heart of a retail business. The consumer now is far savvier than they ever have been before because of technology. Everyone has a powerful supercomputer in the palm of their hands in the form of an iPhone or an Android which connects to so many data points.
For retailers, it’s all about how they can then utilise that data to deliver value and benefit to the customer, through personalisation and convenience across all of their selling channels. Time is a very precious thing that consumers don’t necessarily have a lot of. So naturally, retailers have evolved over the years and have moved from a multi-channel strategy to adopting an omnichannel strategy which has given customers several new touchpoints to shop the brand, so expectations have increased massively. Customers expect a seamless experience regardless of the channel they are using.
As part of my job, I’m fortunate enough to also experience some of the incredible things the likes of IBM are doing with artificial intelligence and the advances that they have made in this space. It’s going to make some serious waves in the industry.
What would you say are the biggest challenges in retail at the moment?
Retail has always been challenged. With the amount of change that has taken place in such a small period of time, all retailers and service businesses are having to adapt. Right now, with COVID-19 in the mix and the uncertainty that surrounds it, the industry is facing perhaps the toughest challenge of all time. The knock-on effect of that is going to be constant change and a challenge for some time to come, as we’re not going to come out of it quickly and easily. Consumers are nervous about the future, and hence they’re being a bit more reserved about their spending.
Off the back of that, the other challenge is going to be how retailers differentiate from one another. How do retailers differentiate in an operating environment that no one has ever experienced before? On the flip side, many of our customers are performing exceptionally well throughout the last few months, whilst others are adapting and implementing changes which are starting to show positive results.
If you could use 3 words to describe Vista, what would you choose?
Focused, Proactive, Fun!
Finally, where could you be found outside of work?
You would typically find me watching Nottingham Forest FC, pre-Covid that is. I’m a season ticket holder with my three boys so we would normally go to watch them. You’d also find me stood on the side of a kid’s football pitch as I coach Grassroots football and have done for about 15 years. You could also find me on top of a mountain somewhere as I love skiing!