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David Tyler’s hunger for growth


By Charles Tilley, FCMA, CGMA

David Tyler, FCMA, CGMA, the chairman of British retail giant Sainsbury’s, has overseen impressive growth whilst at the UK’s second largest supermarket chain.

Founded in 1869, Sainsbury’s now has more than 1,000 stores throughout the UK and boasts 23 million customer transactions per week. It turns over more than £2.5 billion (about $4 billion) annually and has enjoyed 33 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth. The company has a market share of about 17%.

I caught up with him recently to talk about the challenges in today’s economy and the drivers of sustainable business success. During our discussion, Tyler offered these top tips for long-term success in a volatile business environment:

  • Developing the skills and talent to succeed is vital. New trends always start with people, and, as such, it is people who make the difference between success and failure.

    Effective talent management and leadership is a huge challenge in the current climate, but it is absolutely vital to manage tough issues head-on. Valuing and looking after your employees allows you to grow your business. In this vein, it is worth bearing in mind that aligning pay to performance, and length of time at the organisation, will ensure that executives truly have the long-term interests of their organisation at heart. This will increase productivity and achievements.
  • Understand and adopt new technology. The importance of understanding and capitalising on technological change – for example the internet, e-commerce, social media – is key to successful business. It underpins the new economic landscape and cannot be stressed enough. We must allow ourselves to become more adaptable to the new business models that swift technological advances have created.
  • Nurture innovation and prepare the path to profit. In the wake of the financial crisis, we must recognise the huge importance of cultural change in helping to manage risk effectively and drive growth. The global economic crisis was caused, in part, by investors pushing for profit and not adequately managing risk. It is the finance professional’s role to push risk-aware innovation, to create the financial climate in which innovation can succeed and ensure that the organisation moves forward. Finance has the power to become a business partner and promote a balanced view on risk and innovation.
  • Think long term. Business leaders must recognise the difference between short-term and long-term issues. We cannot ignore short-term issues; they must be dealt with, but without losing sight of long-term goals and objectives. It is no easy task to prioritise effectively, but the management accountant can help by providing robust analysis and decision-making that prepare the organisation for long-term success.

Tyler’s insight resonates deeply with our recent CGMA research. His stance on valuing and developing talent, for example, is very much in line with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of CPAs’ (AICPA) recent work on the importance of human capital – which is the last great competitive advantage.

The growth prospects of many firms are being damaged by their failure to make the most of their people. It is imperative that businesses embed human capital strategy within the overall business strategy, and this is something that CIMA is currently looking into with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK.

His understanding of risk and innovation is something that we have also highlighted through the CGMA report Managing Innovation: Harnessing the Power of Finance. Innovation is crucial to sustainable business success in today’s fast-paced, volatile and uncertain world. If companies are to survive, and indeed thrive, they must embrace change in all aspects of their business. They must innovate but at the same time maintain a balanced approach to risk.

Relentless technological advances are having a significant knock-on effect on the global business landscape. To be able to truly capitalise on new forms of technology, and the Big Data that technology brings with it, we must learn how to turn data insights into action.

The recent CGMA tool, How to Turn Data Into Decisions, echoes Tyler’s views on making the most of modern advances. It details how analytic tools that help make sense of a plethora of data must be employed effectively to make efficient and valuable decisions, increasing potential for long-term development and insight.

I would encourage readers to keep a close eye on CGMA.org in the coming months as we continue to explore how our members can help to turn the excess of data in modern life into valuable insight that leads to continued business success.

Charles Tilley, FCMA, CGMA, is chief executive of CIMA.

About David Tyler

David Tyler, FCMA, CGMA, is chairman of British retail giant Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second largest supermarket chain.

He is also a non-executive director of luxury brand Burberry and chairman of retail property organisation Hammerson, a FTSE 100 company with a portfolio across the UK and France worth about £5.5 billion.

Tyler started his career at Unilever, where he qualified as a management accountant through CIMA and developed his interest in finance. In 2010, his varied and successful career was recognised when he was given CIMA’s Outstanding Contribution to Business Performance award.