THIS week’s High Flyer is Simon Layton, head of region for Marks and Spencer (M&S) in Northern Ireland
What was your first job?
My very first job was as a waiter in the local pub. Then, at the age of 16, I took my first step into the world of retail working as a sales assistant in Boots. I processed customer’s memories on the photo counter and loved the interaction with real people.
What qualifications do you have?
I studied Retail Management at Loughborough University. It was a great course incorporating marketing, accounting and leadership and included an industry placement in year three when I first joined M&S through the business placement programme.
What do you attribute your success to?
When I joined M&S in 2003, I set myself personal goals to review at milestones in my career. Because of the great leaders and teams I have had the pleasure of working with and the opportunities I’ve been presented with to broaden my skill set, I’ve managed to achieve these goals. Being supported throughout this journey has really enabled me to succeed.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
I’m passionate about what I do and love trying new things. I’m inquisitive, creative and curious about people.
Who do you look up to in business?
Walt Disney. His attention to detail was second to none and although he died over 50 years-ago, the legacy of commitment to his customer lives on today.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
I make it my business to find out where my colleagues want to go, what they want to achieve and how I can help them to get there. I thrive on getting the best out of people and finding out what makes them tick. I love seeing people progress and be successful in their careers.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
I would increase our accessibility in Northern Ireland by bringing the brand to more people here. We have plans to open two new stores – Craigavon and Carrickfergus – within the next year.
What website or app could you not do without?
The eBay app – I have an entrepreneurial streak and love selling and buying things – everything from cars to collectibles.
What was the last book you read?
I’ve just finished reading a childhood favourite of mine to my 5 year-old son, Jack – The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.
What car do you drive?
I’ve always loved cars and recently owned an old Landrover Defender. I really enjoyed tinkering with it and driving it off-road.
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
I’ve been to Walt Disney World 16 times! – I find the organisation and leadership of the parks fascinating, which is something I have integrated into my work to enhance our customer shopping experience.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
Cars and anything mechanical. I also love to travel when I can and look forward to exploring western Canada this summer.