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Interview: Fash Sawyerr, chief transformation officer at Hermes UK


Last year, Hermes UK appointed Fash Sawyerr as chief transformation officer to support the next stage of its development. New to the home delivery sector and with a private equity background he explains to more about his plans.
Over the last few years I have headed up a number of key transformation projects in various sectors around the world and, without exception, the only thing they have in common is that they have all been very different. However, luckily for me, the key principles pretty much apply to all.

My background is in Private Equity and recently I was involved in the turnaround of a US healthcare technology organisation that had, in simple terms, lost its way. It was a tough 3-year journey, but we got there in the end by overhauling and resetting the strategy for the business and ensuring that their customers really got the service they wanted.

My role at Hermes UK has a very different remit in part because the company is already successful and growing quickly. This has of course been further exacerbated by the pandemic and the business has seen its volumes doubled in the past 18 months. So, this time the transformation isn’t about turnaround but is about making sure that the business is prepared for the next stage of its growth and seeing where improvements can be made in key areas to support this.

This is my first foray into the fast-moving world of home delivery and I quickly found that there were a number of things on my side. It is a sector that is used to change and in fact has had to reinvent itself many times to respond to the ever-developing demands of its retail customers who are in turn often facing their own transformation challenges.

As such I am finding that the vast majority of people I am working with are highly resilient and open to change. At Hermes the operation is also very process driven which again supports my approach.

In broad terms my job is to identify and lead big initiatives that will make a real step change. It isn’t about small, incremental steps – the existing team can more than handle that – but about focussing hard on where we can make the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time. In order to do that I need to really understand what clients and their customers want and need.

Key to this is having a clear strategy that is well communicated to all the stakeholders. This also includes our suppliers and partners who will likely need to be involved in at least some of our major transformation areas – perhaps making changes themselves. We then take each of the major initiatives and break them down into smaller, tangible projects which we then measure religiously. We look for barriers and gaps and quickly address them.

These projects are rarely mono functional and often involve teams from across the whole business. Take for example the area of CX (customer experience). Whilst the customer service team is at the forefront of this dealing with queries, there are many day-to-day touch points within our organisation that have as much or even more influence over the service we deliver from operations through to our client teams – and even our clients!

This involves a big shift in thinking and this cultural change is possibly the hardest part of any transformation piece. Training can help with that as it is essential that everyone is aware of the goal and vision for what we are doing and feel that they have a voice and their input is valued.

In addition, an understanding of the benefits that success will bring, not just for the business and its customers but also for individual team members, is important. I totally understand that career progression and increased earning ability are clear motivators as is the feeling that you are doing a great job. As a result, it is important that we celebrate any successes and ensure that they become part of the company’s folklore moving forward to instil pride throughout the business.

We are still very much in the early stages of the transformation here at Hermes but already we are seeing some real successes with new business wins with top tier retailers and a number of exciting new products soon to come on line. I personally am excited for what the future will bring.

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