Episode #06 - Giving Your Best Ft. Andrew Main - Show Notes
What's a leadership principle that can be applied at the C-Suite level down to the frontline workers? Andrew Main, former CEO of Aramark UK joins us this week and shares this leadership principle, talks about the technology gap within the industry, and so much more! Check it out now in our sixth episode!
Give us a brief summary of your career.
We will keep it really high level. I studied hospitality management at college in Scotland. That led me into the hospitality sector and spent the first couple of summers at college in a hotel, 4 split shifts a day. I figured there's got to be a better way to make a living. It was hard work with very little financial income coming in. The second summer I went into contract food service. I actually really enjoyed that, found it really rewarding. That first fork in the road was do I go into the hotel, more glamorous side of the industry, or do I take the less glamorous and behind the scenes supporting organizations in good service to their employees? That first decision really set my career in the direction it's been since then. I worked with 2 or 3 companies in Scotland and UK-based food companies. I was approached to join up with Aramark to head up their oil and gas and support business out of Scotland. That was a very special moment and from that point, I was very fortunate to have fantastic success with Aramark, up until 2015/2016, at which point we parted company and I set up a business focused on bringing great tech to the hospitality industry called SerTech Exchange. And that's where I am now.
You mentioned the under-served sectors, isn't it all underserved at this point?
If I go back to the original decision to establish SerTech Exchange, that was a light bulb moment. What struck me back then was whereas industries such as finance or pharmaceuticals, had their dedicated ecosystems of great tech, I wasn't aware of anything like that for our industry. That was the genesis if you like, to create that ecosystem for the industry. Your question is really a fair question, has anything changed? I would tell you I think there is some fantastic tech out there, whether that's appropriately matched or the companies are using it to the best of their advantage, I think that's more of the question that's out there as opposed to it being underserved. There is great technology, waiting to serve the industry, but as an industry, we haven't figured out how to bring these two parts together in a way that really is transformational and changes the trajectory of the companies within the service industry.
When you look back at 20 years at Aramark, what has been the greatest honor for you?
The greatest honor I've had is the honor to lead extraordinary teams, to be given the opportunity to be a leader, to be granted that trust by the organizations with whom I've worked. To lead teams from a food service manager at the outset to being the president of our billion-dollar division of Aramark, with extraordinarily talented people, and being in the UK leading talented and dedicated teams and individuals, that, has by far been the greatest honor I've experienced.
What challenges have evolved as your influence and teams grew?
That's a great question. I'm not sure this will do it justice but, part of being a leader is figuring out when to get out of the way. The great thing about leading a team is one of the very early lessons, you should always be hiring the best possible talent you can find for that particular position, so invariably you hire someone who's way more talented than I would ever be in their field of specialization. So as I was fortunate enough to climb the corporate ladder, you were hiring similarly talented executives to come alongside of you. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out when to step aside and when to lean into the judgment and opinion of those and not be in the way.
Also uniting a team as a team and not a group of individuals. I used to say to the executive team of Aramark UK, "When you step into the board room for our board meetings, you're wearing the second of your two hats. Your day job was to be the functional head, when you come into the board room, you're part of the leadership team and you're making decisions as a board member." That secondary role, that's something that I felt was really important to focus on in these interactions.
Take it down to the frontlines of an organization, can you do that with frontline employees as well?
100%. I think that's a great question. If you play that the way you just asked, as a leader of a frontline team, the chances are you have people doing roles in your team that will do their roles way better than you could do on your own, and why not allow them to help shape decisions that are going to make the business more successful?
What do you look at now as the greatest opportunity for frontline companies?
Business is about meeting our customers' needs or desire that is sufficiently scalable to justify a business. It's all about the employees, how do they equip the employees to deliver that service at the quality and meet the needs of the customers. Keep them focused on the prize, the prize is providing the best in class, best value for money. The employees and frontline teams are the ones who are going to deliver that. So what's going to enable them to do that consistently.
What's one thing you believe, that if everyone believed too, would make the world a better place?
Treat others the way you'd want to be treated yourself. When it comes to calls, how would you want to be treated in that situation? How would we feel being a recipient of a decision?