I recently saw Chris Sutton, from James Latham, speak at an East Midlands Chamber of Commerce event. I felt a strong connection with many of the messages that Chris provided about the culture of the business and his own views on leadership.
Chris is the Chairman and Managing Director of the Trading board (and a Director of the plc as well). He has been part of the business for 37 years! James Latham is a family owned business of 258 years, with 362 employees. Their mission is to continue to create a business and service that is “legal, sustainable and fit for purpose”.
In this latest blog in the “Inspiring Leaders” series, Chris provides some insights into what has made the business successful and how he has led the company over the years.
• What are your driving values as a leader?
This sounds a little clichéd but honesty, integrity, openness and fairness are important to me. Fairness with our people, suppliers and customers. We value people’s opinions and developing relationships is a real driver for me.
• How do you think your style differs from other leaders you observe?
I am far more open and trusting than many leaders. I feel I am a good judge of character and not many people have ever let us down. I have standards and morals that drive decisions on who to do business with and it is important that both buyers and sellers are happy in all our relationships. The way we deal with people has had a significant impact on the company culture. I make a real effort to know the people who work for us and know over 320 of the 362 people who work for us!
• Who are leaders who have proven inspirational to you?
Sir Clive Woodward is an inspiration to me. The way he did everything he could to win the Rugby World Cup and ensure his team were fully prepared and knew he believed in them. I believe he is ahead of his time. I am also a great admirer of Karen Brady, who I have seen speak in the past. I respect the way she presents herself and the successes she has had in a male dominated industry and sport. She communicates succinctly and with clarity and it is evident she knows what she is talking about.
• Define your company culture and what is important in this for you?
Fundamentally we believe in and support our workforce. We invest a lot in training to develop our people. As I have said previously our culture is one of openness and I personally have an open door policy, where I always have time for people without the need for appointments.
• What are your ambitions for the future?
For the company to grow and prosper. I would like the transition to when I retire in 6-7 years to be seamless and this to be one of evolution rather than revolution, as so much good work has been done over the years. If the team succeeds in the future I will see this as my personal success too.
• What advice would you give to aspiring business leaders?
Do it your own way but always listen. Don’t be afraid to make decisions and believe in both yourself and your people. Have self-respect always and be respectful to others.
I hope you found Chris’s thoughts on leadership interesting and inspiring and that you can take on board some of these insights in the way you lead.