Podcast: Nathan Williams, CEO of Mamas & Papas

May 12, 2023 Sophie Colquhoun

For our latest podcast episode, we spoke to Nathan Williams, CEO of Mamas and Papas. 

From pre-pack administration deal in 2019 to a record-breaking financial year, Nathan Williams explains how he and his team have turned Mamas and Papas around.

As you'll hear, Nathan details how the team got clear on Mamas and Papas mission and how this focus has led to international expansion, exciting concession partnerships, an ESG strategy that makes a difference, and importantly, a happy and empowered team.

It's an inspiring and fascinating listen for anyone working in a direct brand. We hope you enjoy!

Listen to the full episode below:

Or, if you prefer you can read the transcript below: 

Sorcha O’Boyle: Congratulations are in order for my guest today. Nathan Williams is the newly minted CEO of Mamas & Papas and although he’s new in his role he has in fact been part of the business for several years. Nathan was part of the team that has been steering the brand through what might just be the turn around to end all turn arounds. In 2019, Mamas & Papas sold in a pre-pack administration deal but the brand is now, just four years later, on course to deliver a record-breaking financial year. Nathan it is great to have you here. How are you doing?

Nathan Williams: I’m very good thank you very much and thank you for that wonderful introduction. That’s very kind of you, thank you.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah well it’s, yeah but I mean it’s not often that you come across a story like what’s happened and in such a short amount of time. So, look I know we’ll jump into that in a little bit more detail but how are you settling into the new job? How does it feel to be CEO?

Nathan Williams: How am I settling in? I’m settling in really well, I think. How does it feel to be CEO? I think it’s something I’ve worked towards, and I feel, to be first and foremost, I feel quite honoured and privileged to be the CEO of Mamas & Papas. Great history and you touch upon some of the recent history there, but it’s been 41 years, our founders created a wonderful brand so to be the custodian and leader of that brand for a period of time is a great honour. I feel excited, I don’t feel scary or anything like that, I’m very clear of what we want to do but really excited actually about the chapter ahead for Mamas & Papas as well.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, fantastic. And could you maybe tell us the story a little bit of what happened in 2019 after you kind of had that administration experience and what has it taken to get you to where you are now?

Nathan Williams: So, I mean I’ve been in the business five years, and I think when I first arrived, I mean there was a, clearly a lot going on. There was a lot going on in the market and the business that had gone through quite a lot of change over a number of years and then clearly in November 2019 it wasn’t just us. We did the pre-pack administration and then Mothercare obviously went into administration the very same week. So, the market was quite chaotic you could say. And it was one of these were the business had to make a significant change to rebalance costs and in line with revenue so yeah it was a major change and then that was November 19 and then four months after that March 20 obviously Covid. So just as the dust was settling if you like from the November 19th, we entered Covid. It was a real difficult time for the business and actually I mean I talk about it quite a lot and to people where, you know, Covid allowed us as a business to just pause and recalibrate. That Covid time really afforded us the opportunity to pause and really think about what we wanted to do in light of the market situation, in light of the changing landscape and in light of obviously the change with Covid. So, I mean this in the very right way it came at quite an opportune time for Mamas & Papas. Whilst there’s always things for us to do I think we took the opportunity really well.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, and I think being able to spot those opportunities for what they are even if they seem really difficult and challenging at the time. But to say that actually this is the time to pause because I mean I know for a lot of people at the start of Covid it was an enforced break, but it was also a time of panic as well, you know, because nobody knew what was coming. How did you and the senior team, how did you kind of refocus on the things that you thought were going to drive change in the right direction?

Nathan Williams: Well, there were a few things actually, we were fortunate, and we are fortunate that we operate in what is a resilient market. We were very lucky, people are always having babies and I’m not sure whether this was going to be a question before you ask it, no there was no big baby boom. But people are always having babies so there is non-discretionary whether to buy a pushchair, a car seat, or something for baby too sleep in. So, we were fortunate that our digital business really came through that time. We just took the time to reflect on where did we really think things were going wrong for the brand, how did we think the brand was perceived by customers, by our rivals if you like and what’s going on in the market and really think about, “Well that’s what we thought we looked like, what do we want to be? It’s not just what we want to be but clearly what we stand for as a brand but what do we want our customers to think of us?” We set off really on a journey of and having to answer a number of major questions on what do we want to stand for, what do we want our customers to see and then go about it from a retail perspective, from a digital perspective, from a culture perspective. So, yeah it was probably whilst the shops were closed it was probably the busiest time that we had really addressing what we wanted to do and when June, I think it was June the 15th, stores reopened, we made sure that they reopened in a way that reflected what we wanted to be for the future as opposed to what we were and we spent a lot of time focusing on those things.

Sorcha O’Boyle: And what were the values that came out? What do you want your customer to see when they look at Mamas & Papas?

Nathan Williams: Well, if we think about and this is where we weren’t clear before and I am very clear as a leader what are the things that are important and EBITDAR is important, and revenue and sales are important but quite often people focus too much on the numbers and the spreadsheets as opposed to what are the things that go into it. We want to inspire and support parents to be the best parents they can be. The question I’m unapologetic how often I ask the question to the board, or all of our people were if we really want to inspire and support parents and it’s not about discount, it’s not about things like that but it’s in what is a very emotional journey we have a unique opportunity to create a fantastic connection with the customer. Because if we do that and we do it well then that breeds loyalty in itself without offering all sort of discounts, that’s short term loyalty. But the question I ask in the journey of parenting up to about three to four years of age in those moments are we helpful? And if the answer is yes, then great, how do we do it better and how do we improve that and continue that momentum? If the answer to that question is no, then the next question is, “Well what do we need to do?” Because if we’re not helpful then we’re not there. So really looking at it like that as opposed to building spreadsheets. If I open up x amount of stores or my conversion on digital does this, if I spend that, what do I get? We start with those questions and answer those. So yeah, we were very busy, and we remain, we still ask those questions every single week. And something happens right, where did we go wrong and how could we be better to be helpful? So, yes, that’s a real difference to where we would have been previously.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, absolutely and you touched on earlier that, you know, your kind of digital side really came through during Covid and during the enforced lockdowns. Can you tell me a little bit about how do you get what is an older fashioned traditional kind of retailer up to a position digitally where they can compete with the agile ecom, ecommerce first businesses because you touched on it earlier like you’re a custodian, you’re a heritage brand, in a way your model is completely different to somebody who has a website and that’s how they interact with their customer. How do you get up to that kind of operating level?

Nathan Williams: Well, there are a few things in there and I think if we look at what our customer wants from us from whether it’s a digital journey or whether it’s from going into stores. So, you asked me about digital. So, you know, parenting when you find out you’re pregnant and you’re going to have a baby and then you start looking for pushchairs and car seats it can be quite overwhelming because there is so much choice. There’s a lot of technical things to be aware of as well so we looked at our digital business in a number of different ways and what I and what we are very clear of as a business is our digital platform is not all about the transaction, back to my point, are we helpful? We have to think far beyond just a transaction. So, we sell pushchairs, we sell car seats, we sell furniture, we sell clothing, we sell toys, so customers need different things from those categories. So, we looked at it and we put it into three buckets where a website has to inform customers on some of the things they need, it becomes a tool of discovery, so we have to educate certainly on pushchairs but with the soft goods and furniture it’s about inspiring and, you know when people look on home, people look for inspiration and mood boards so our furniture offering has to come across like that. Trying to treat every category the same way will not work because that’s not what customer looks at. So, we’ve made good progress, we continue to question it and look at it but to inspire, to educate and inform that’s how we look at the website and we ask ourself for each of those categories do we do that and do we do it well? So that was a real change to where we were whereas previously it was about getting people in who where there for a while where it was about the transaction and, you know, purely looked at it that way. How can we sell more and improve conversion without answering the right questions. So that’s one of the biggest changes I’d say that how we look at the digital business beyond the transaction.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, I like your approach it’s very simple and actually one thing I also really like is your, the parent to be video hook, it’s really nice.

Nathan Williams: Oh yes. Yeah.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah really nice and when you’re looking at it you really don’t feel like you’re being sold to at all.

Nathan Williams: Yeah, that’s really important what we do not want is a customer to come into our shop or go onto our website and feel they’re being sold things. You know, buy this, buy that and if you buy this and buy-, it’s “Well what do you need Sir?” It’s nice to hear that that’s how it comes across. We’re not pushing sales on people.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, no, no, no, it’s really good. And can you tell me a little about your stores as well because I know they’re, your concessions I’m really interested in as well. Can you tell me a little bit about those partners that you work with.

Nathan Williams: Yeah, sure so we do, we have 22 of our own stores and what we’ve done with those is if we want to be inspiring and support parents then we have to look inspiring ourselves and look we’re not Mothercare, we’re not any other brand we are Mamas & Papas and we want to be more premium and when a customer comes in, they feel warm. So, we’ve made a lot of changes in our stores to reflect that but also put a little bit of with I think is it retailtainment you people call it. Where we’ve got some test tracks in stores, you know, we’ve got a Mini cut in half so you can really try car seats. So, it’s about the experience as well so again what type of pushchair do you want? Right, this is how it feels on different surfaces; this is how a car seat go. You really engage with the customer in a very different way to just selling them the products. So, they are hugely important our stand-alone stores and they do very, very well for us. But the concessions, what we have learned certainly in our sector it’s a very emotional purchase, it’s a very expensive purchase. So before committing to it people want to go and see it, ask questions about it, touch and feel the product. So, retail space is very important for us, and we had a couple of concessions with Next, our oldest concession is about four, coming up four years old and when we were in the position to expand because we got the business on an even keel and could actually start investing in space again it was geographically where do we need to be? The concession partner at that point in time was just Next and they had some great locations. They were delighted with how our brand looked in their stores, how we drove additional customers because we’re very much a destination retailer, we complemented what they did, and our sales densities are phenomenal when you compare it to theirs so it was a good partnership. It’s grown now where we have 25 concessions with Next, we have three now with M&S, I’m sure you’ve seen the news, and that’s been really interesting for us actually, our M&S concessions because it’s, it is a different customer between the two and I vividly remember when we were offered space in their Cheshire Oaks, their stand-alone store not in the outlet and I sat in their café for about an hour and I just sat and I watched the people who was walking round the space and then I sat there and I saw lots of mums. I did actually speak to one of the guys there and say, “Did you get an agency to send a load of mums into the store when I was there?” Because there was so many of them and I rang our retail director Marcus and I said, “This is going to be great space”. They have been hugely successful so we’re delighted, and I think where we talk about partnerships what I think is hugely important is to recognise where we can add value to them, but they can add value to us. Quite often people make decisions to, [Inaudible 00:13:18] back to spreadsheets and numbers, a short time decision, to influence a number immediately without a consideration of the long term. And all the partnerships we engage in and continue to look at are for the long term where we can add value to them but equally, they can add value to us. So yes, we have a number of concessions, they’re hugely successful it allows us to go into geographical space where we’re not really present but where there is the demand in the market and yeah, they’re great partnerships. We’re not looking for any other partners on it because they’re two major retailers, they’re great partners and I’d like to think they say the same about us.

Sorcha O’Boyle: I’m sure they do; I’m sure they do. And kind of related to that so I know you’ve mentioned before that international expansion is kind of a big focus for you now in the next phase or two, so will concessions be used as a vehicle for you to get into new markets or are you going to start with stand-alone stores? What kind of approach are you taking?

Nathan Williams: Yeah, it’s a really good question and it’s a question we ask ourselves and have been asking ourselves for a while. I think now is the right time for us to really focus on our international expansion. We’ve, back to the point back in 2019 and early 20’s we’ve corrected the course of the business, I think fixing the core it sounds like it was very broken. We just lacked clarity and direction really in leadership which we’ve corrected. So, we’ve corrected the course and the core of the business in the UK, we know what the brand stands for and it’s very important for us. We are a brand and we’re very good with our service proposition and retail is a great complement to our brand and whilst there is still space in the UK market for us what we look at now is with key partners, the right ones, where are the markets we want to be, how do we want to go into them and I very much mean this in the right way, we’re not a stroller brand. There are some fantastic, we sell some of the big brands, I appreciate the fact that they allow their products in our stores I think they complement us really well and I’m delighted to work with some of the key brands. But that whole look and feel, we do nursery we don’t just do pushchairs. So, us being represented in the right way as a brand internationally and succeeding it has to be broader than pushchairs. And I think what we have done in the UK has sparked quite a bit of interest. What I think Covid has taught us that the nursery market is a resilient market, lots of people are looking to diversify their businesses into more resilient businesses like that’s why Next work with us on the concessions, it’s a completely different category. Same for M&S they don’t do hardly anything, they’re very strong childrenswear retailers but they don’t do nursery, so it adds value to them. So that interest, it’s the same in department stores internationally. So, we’re working with some major partners to not the full concession where it’s our own tills, it’s our own staff and it essentially is direct to consumer but we’re just renting space in the store. We’re looking at the shop-in-shop which if you could argue is concession light. So, taking three to five hundred square metres, doing nursery, multi-category in a premium really nice way. So, there is quite a lot of international demand for that and that’s the right model for us to go forward. It represents the brand well and we add value and the look and feel for some of these international partners we’re talking to.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah brilliant. How are you presenting the brand? I mean are you going to cut a mini in half and put it into a shop in Australia? Are you going with the British identity or are you doing something a little bit different? How’s it going to look?

Nathan Williams: That’s an interesting question. I think in some markets certainly more the Asian markets the whole British Heritage brand is important. We tend not to say play too much on that. Yes we’re a British brand founded by Italian, very passionate founders and Bluegem our owner currently is, there’s a few Italians there and they’re very passionate people and I think that passion feeds into what we do. So, what is important is that we demonstrate as a brand why we are there for parents in our products, the consideration of the design of our product. It’s not just about how it may look fantastic but if it doesn’t fold or it doesn’t work very well it’s not very good for consumer. So, it’s all of the functionality and just getting the look and feel of the brand and playing less on the British that complements what we are, we don’t lean and rely on them.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, okay, yeah, I think that makes sense.

Nathan Williams: Yeah.

Sorcha O’Boyle: We’ve talked a lot about expansion and kind of turning the business round, but I know that you’ve also played a big role in the ESG strategy. It’s probably not fair to say that you built it from the ground up because I’m sure there was something there already, but I think probably post Covid you’ve had a little bit more headspace to think about it. Could you tell me a little bit about what you do with Oxfam?

Nathan Williams: Yeah sure. So the whole ESG piece I remember when I was, when I first arrived in the business more of the, on the product director side, we did, we looked at packaging and it was very much within the product world and what things that we can do. But the thing that, if I was to be asked what am I most proud about in terms of where we are as a business the question I asked ourselves and challenged us with was profit and record breaking years. Yeah, they’re great, you know, we’ll have, but then next year could be record breaking and it’s just a moment in time. But for the challenge for us was to make Mamas & Papas a better business, better for customers and better for the planet and better for our colleagues. We did, we pulled a full cross functional, business cross functional team together and they meet quarterly. People from the warehouse, stores, product, HR, customer service, where have I missed out? Marketing, digital, every single part of our business is represented in this working group, and we have four main pillars, four pillars to our ESG which is about our customer, our community, products and the environment and our people. So, under each one of those what does, what do we look at. We are incredibly proud to have launched 18 new people policies, we’ve enhanced a further 16 policies to make Mamas & Papas a more attractive and a better employer. Under the product piece one of the things which I was very keen for us to explore and learn was the circularity. I mean for those people who’ve got children, I’ve got three, I vividly remember certainly with our first we’d have piles of clothes which they’d seldom wear and then before you know it they’ve grown out and then. I mean the top I’m wearing now I’ve had for about two years, but children’s clothing does not last anywhere near as long as that. So I did, I looked around and I thought “Well what do we do on this?” Because no one was doing anything and then if there’s a question I want to ask and I can’t answer if myself I’m very happy to go and find people to help us and I reached out to a gentleman called Mike Barry, I was given his name and then subsequently everybody I’ve spoken to on ESG knows Mike. He’s a fantastic guy and we learnt so much. He set up Plan A with M&S over 25 years [Inaudible 00:20:26] ago now. So, I reached out to ASOS they’re a great business in terms of circularity, redesign, reuse, repurpose among other things so I contacted those and then reached out to Oxfam and that was one of my most proudest moments where it took six months for us to go through the process and thinking, “Will we be good enough for Oxfam to partner with?” But when I got the email from the guys at Oxfam confirming that they were happy to approve the partnership I was delighted.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Oh amazing.

Nathan Williams: It is. We’ve got a great partnership with those guys where customers bring unwanted clothing. We’ve got boxes in all of our stores, they bring it in, put it in and then we on a, probably every two to three months we send over to Oxfam, and it is, it’s great. Because zero percent goes to landfill. I remember when our first delivery went to their recycling warehouse in Batley, Leeds we sorted through about 30 boxes worth of clothing and about 83% of the products that were given back from customers was good enough to go out to an Oxfam shop to be sold. I mean I think that is about double what they normally expect from some of their other partnerships, but it just shows you that the, the need if you like to recycle and get into circularity on children’s clothing. It’s quite humbling actually for us and we know we’re doing the right things when people like Oxfam are as excited about the partnership as we are and I talked to those guys and they’re just so excited and so are we and it does, it’s great. So, 85%, just under, goes out to raise money and help Oxfam support the fantastic work that they do. So only 15% is not good enough for that. Very, very, very, very, small percent, I think it was about 1% ended up going to be incinerated. So really good and that really sparked us, and we will be doing much more in the coming months actually we’ll be announcing something in the next, where are we now? In the next two months about more circularity on other parts of our business. Second hand markets, we do service and valets of pushchair, but extending product life is hugely important not just for our planet but consumer, cost of living, you know, not everything people can access, and we have a role to play on that and allow people to buy things with confidence. So it’s a great partnership we’re all very excited and they’re the things that really make you think, “We’re doing the right things. We’re making Mamas & Papas a better business”.

Sorcha O’Boyle: I mean that is fantastic and huge congratulations for that. It is such a brilliant initiative and I think you kind of touched on it lightly there as well having or reusing, repairing, products and things and I know that you have a cot bed that converts into a toddler bed which I just love the idea about. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Nathan Williams: Yes, most of our cots and cot beds some people from a size go for a very small one but product longevity is important and we do talk to customers quite a lot about it because a lot of the, so the cot and cot beds they’re good enough to go from zero to four to five years and then what you can do and I’ve done it myself with some, with my kids is then when second child comes you end up putting it back to the cot, then again it goes, and it can grow with you as a family. So whilst there is always certainly in some of our products, you know, recycled product and content can often be quite, there is much for us to learn still because there is, it’s about integrity and compliance and safety, so there’s a lot of things to learn still and we are learning those things but it’s about product longevity as well so it’s, you’re not constantly consuming products and consumptions. And we’re working on a mattress take back scheme as well on that front. So products, life and product extensions are just as important as making products more sustainable from a fabrications.

Sorcha O’Boyle: That’s brilliant and can you tell me what you are most looking forward to over the next, let’s say year or 18 months?

Nathan Williams: I think what we’ve over the last 12 months in particular, we’ve really spent a lot of time crystalising our thoughts and our purpose as a business. I referenced to inspire and support parents to be the best parents they can be. However, that journey goes, the partners we work with and we’re not the experts in everything, but we work with experts that can support. So that’s great but what I’m really excited about and looking forward to is how we drive that through the business. The golden thread that runs through the business and the, our purpose at the very top but linking through to values and beliefs and we did a SMT meeting the first time I think in over 10, 15 years where we got all of the senior leaders of the business together and when I say senior, you know, our heads of, our senior management team, SMT and it was great to see them all in the room together. But what I really look forward to now seeing is that group coming together and the purpose and the values and the beliefs filtering through the business. Because we do all that right and I am a firm believer, I believe we’re doing the right things and I believe in what we’re doing. But I believe if we can inspire our colleagues by being clear of what we stand for as a brand, what we want to achieve, being very clear and I’m very clear, look, this is my first CEO role and although I’ve been in the business five years and I know the business well, what’s required of me is new but we’re all going on the journey together. It’s really exciting and when we see the culture and people just wanting to do the right things and inspired that’s when you look at it and go “We’re doing the right things”. And then the numbers come, we do all those things, the results, the performance, and we have bumpy months, we have challenging weeks and months, but overall, the business moves forward so, yeah, I’m really looking forward to seeing how we mature over the next 12 months and grow as a business to be better.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay so in terms of, I suppose any learnings you’ve had throughout your career, any advice you’ve been given or any advice you could give to somebody who’s maybe let’s say at their mid-level, you know, maybe they’re kind of, they’re not senior, senior but they want to get that position. If you were talking to somebody over a coffee, casually, what kind of thing would you say to them?

Nathan Williams: Over the years, I think you grow up in your career, you make lots of decisions and you become technically good at what you do, and I think the real differentiator for people to really progress is their behaviours and how they come across as a leader. I’m very clear there is a distinct difference between leadership and management. Management there is a place for but in senior positions and certainly when you’re leading teams it’s about leadership. But the best thing certainly I’ve learnt in my career, and I was just talking to someone the other week about it quite informal and I’m sure you’re gathering I’m not that formal. But it is, I think the biggest thing and I don’t mind sharing actually up until a few years ago self-belief and confidence. They can either boost you and really take you to another level or they can really hold you back and quite often it can become quite crippling really in terms of decision making if you don’t believe in yourself. And someone did say to me, this is a long time ago now in my merchandising career. “Now one day Nathan, if you believe you in yourself, you’d make a great director”. Because talking about empathy as an example which is a real required trait for a good leader. But I never believed it, I never believed I could do it and quite often and I’m sure we’ve all sat there in our careers or certainly most of us have, some might not admit to it, sat there when you watch some people presenting and just go, “I wish I was as confident as that”. And that very mindset holds you back because then when you want to try to and then you at the last minute sometimes you go, “No, I can’t do that”. But that whole self-belief thing and I’ve gone through it myself. You know, I read a book and I’m not a great reader, but I read this book and all of a sudden, I was reading it and I thought, “Well I think about that, I don’t talk much about it” and I thought “Oh right, tick”. And then I read deeper into the book, and I thought “You know I think something, yeah that’s crossed my mind”. And then you take those things and go, “Do you know what, you’ve read this Nathan you should really believe in yourself a bit more”. And then you try one thing and then you try something else, and you put yourself, you have to be comfortable to be uncomfortable and go, “Do you know what? I’m going to do it. What’s the worse that will happen?” And then you do that, and I think when you start then believing in yourself and have that confidence, you stop worrying what other people think of you. You stop worrying about if I do that will I be seen as doing a good job? And it’s not that you go beyond not caring what people think if you ever thought that then you’d never be a good leader but it’s not worrying what people think and allowing that to influence you and stop you doing. So, a piece of advice I would give anyone who doubts themselves or doesn’t, don’t think they can do it, just tell yourself, you can. What someone said to me and this is so important, I really believe in this because in any aspect of life it’s about a balance. Too much of one thing is not good enough and too little of something else is this. So, anything in life whether it’s relationships, money, anything is about a balance. How often do people walk out of the door, out of work or at the end of the week and tell themselves and talk to them, “Oh that could have been better. I should have done that” or “That didn’t go very well, and that presentation didn’t quite go as well as I wanted it”, and etc. How many of those thoughts do you put through your mind versus, “Do you know what that went really well this week. Oh, I’m really pleased, I’m proud of myself for doing that. Oh yeah, that went well.” So, for every negative that goes through your mind you’ve got to put a positive in as well. But start with the positives. “Oh yeah, do you know what, I stood up and I did that presentation. Oh, I was bloody worried, but I did it. Could I have done it better?” Anyone can do anything better. What I’m doing today and what I’m doing with Mamas & Papas I could do better, but you learn from those things. So yeah, don’t be afraid and tell yourself, if you tell yourself five, ten, negative things you have to tell yourself ten positives. Otherwise, you’re look in the car mirror when you’re driving home and you look, feel quite down. So I think it’s so important and it really once you can break through that, I feel very passionately about it because I have been there. Even this week, there’s been stuff gone on this week which you go, “Oh that was a tough, that was tough”. But I don’t tell myself we could have done that better and then this that and the other and start, beating myself up mentally about it. You go, “Alright we’ll learn from that Nathan. We won’t do that again”. And then you look at all of the things that have got, done well. When I talk to you about the stuff we are doing as a business and have done you then reflect and go, “Do you know what? We’re always going forward”. So yeah, it’s self-belief. If you don’t believe in yourself then, you know, no one will so that’s the piece of advice. Two bits, believe in yourself and for every negative you tell yourself you have to tell yourself a positive. Balance it out and feel good.  

Sorcha O’Boyle: Oh, I loved that. That is brilliant, brilliant.  

Nathan Williams: There you go.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, but that’s class I absolutely love that, thank you so much.

Nathan Williams: Good, good. Because it’s so important and the one thing I will, I say the one thing I’m sure you’re detecting there’s a lot of one things I’ll say but with everything that we’ve done the one thing and I say this to my guys. “Yes, there’s a lot to do, we’ve come a long way, but we’re having fun doing it”. The team are fantastic, the team spirit, everybody’s got each other backs. When one person’s feeling down I see it, I see people stepping in, “Right, what do you need from me? What can I do to help you?” So great team spirit but it’s so important to have fun with it as well. We need that angle in life don’t we.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, but even as you were talking earlier getting your senior management team in I could see you kind of, you were brightened up, like you’re sitting up taller and you could really see how much you enjoy the people that you’re working with.  

Nathan Williams: Yeah, and the thing I think leaders really do have to think, really do have to think, what is their real legacy? So, when I step away and whenever that is, what have I left behind me? And if it’s all about, you know, quite often you read where good EBITDAR success and then CEO walks away and this and that happened, then things start unravelling. Oh, it’s all through, you know. The business isn’t in a great state. But when we walk away as leaders of Mamas & Papas and our legacy is want to be looked at as we’ve had, we’ve made a real positive impact. Real positive impact for our customers and our people and we get that right then the rest comes. We talk about record breaking years, well that will be forgotten next year if next year’s better and if someone else does that and not you, you won’t be remembered as someone who delivered the record-breaking year. But for the Oxfam partnerships, our ESG, our concessions, adding value, our people policies and how we make customers lives better, inspiring support. And I love stories when I hear where we do, when we do appointments in stores called Buying for Baby where customer can go in, get all the advice, and make a purchase. And the number of stories I hear well when baby has arrived, they go back into store to show the lady or the guy that’s done the person, the Buying for Baby appointment with them. So back to that emotional connection. When I hear stories like that and I see all our leaders together and go, do you know what? This is what leadership is about, they’re the things people will remember and yeah, it’s what matters. It’s what your values are and where you derive your satisfaction which I go back to my point if you just look at the numbers and a week that’s down to plan then if that’s all you look at then you’re not going to feel good but if you look at it and go, “But we had two customers came into our stores this week and showed the store staff the baby”. You go, “That’s fine. That will do for me”.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, you’re doing something right.

Nathan Williams: So the legacy we leave behind it’s so important to leave a good long lasting positive impact. So, that’s the job of a leader and a leadership team.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Brilliant and Nathan I think that is a perfect note to end it on. Thank you so much really that was eye opening, I really enjoyed talking to you.

Nathan Williams: Oh, thank you very much. It’s a nice way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Sorcha O’Boyle: Good, good. That was Nathan Williams CEO of Mamas & Papas. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Industry Leader’s Podcast and don’t forget that you can catch up on all of our previous episodes wherever you get your podcasts. For now, though, that’s it from me. So, until next time, take care and bye.


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