Magazine article Management Today

You Live and You Learn: Sir Terry Leahy, Former CEO of Tesco

Magazine article Management Today

You Live and You Learn: Sir Terry Leahy, Former CEO of Tesco

Article excerpt

I was an unlikely success. My parents were poor Irish immigrants There were no books in our prefab home or academic aspirations. But I won a scholarship to the best grammar school in Liverpool, which pulled me up and got me to university.

My background helped me in my 32 years at Tesco. I always felt that I understood where customers were coming from. Many of our customers and staff had similar experiences. I aimed to serve ordinary families and improve their shopping experience.

Retailing is very competitive. But your pride won't let you sink so you have to swim. I developed a thick skin. When I joined Tesco, a supplier warned I'd be eaten alive. I was a quiet, relatively shy person and in retailing it was assumed you needed to be very brash.

Tesco hit a problem in the early 1990s. Our relationship with customers was suffering and the German discounters were flooding in. People wondered whether Tesco would survive. The value of the business grew by pounds 30bn when I became chief executive.

I was offered lots of jobs while at Tesco. …

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