In-line, On-line

On Thursday morning I flew in to Heathrow from Dubai to arrive in a rainy and grey London. It still felt good to be home, even for a few hours. That said my very regular exposure to Terminal 5 this month has resulted in a list of top three niggles;

(1) In a new terminal why is it necessary to wait for the next train connecting B and C Satellites because the current one is busy. And why is the frequency so low ? Being screamed at by BAA staff to move along, cram in at 6am is not a great start to the day nor a good finish to a night’s sleep on board.

(2) Why are UK Border staff ‘surprised’ to see people arrive off planes ? There can be no other reason for unmanned immigration desks and large lines of people.

(3) Didn’t the planners ever learn about human behaviour. I don’t want five “automatic” elevators which go from arrivals to the Heathrow Express platform. I want a button that I can repeatedly punch, see light up and know that I have done my part. These ghost elevators seem to be everywhere but where I want them.

As I said its good to be home.

I had some catch up meetings in London which was a stroke of luck as mid morning I got an email from my club, Morton’s, to say that they had some availability for a 4pm lecture by Natalie Massenet, the founder and chairman of the Net-A-Porter Group which, as we all know, revolutionized online, fashion / luxury retailing. Unbelievable that I was (a) in the country, (b) in London and (c) had a free hour.

It was a good talk. Free from pretence and you get the sense that as much as Massenet has great taste and judgement she is a grafter. A couple of things stood out.

She warned that people always wanted to talk you out of good ideas. Especially of the idea is based on something new. I hadn’t really thought of it that way before but it’s largely true. Her advice was simple. Ignore them. Go with gut.

The other standout comment. And she spent some time on this. Was the importance of HR and hiring good people. She waxed on how Net-A-Porter had succeeded on the basis of hiring and retaining good people.

It was refreshing. Here was someone who really could take credit for success but was stressing the importance of team work.

All of this got me thinking about an article I had read in The Wall Street Journal before falling asleep on the flight by Robert Sutton “How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything – What harm can a handful of nasty or incompetent employees do ? A lot more than you may think.”. It’s an interesting article based on the fact that ‘Bad is stronger than good” and that negativity can have a disproportionate impact on the corporate culture. Worth a read.

Finally, during questions Massenet was asked what was the difference between female and male online shopping habits. She summed it up as ‘Woman are looking to buy what they do not have and men are buying what they already have’. Perfect.


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