Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Brendon Love, who followed his passion making a bold move from the corporate world to running his own business.
We touched on his experience in such a change, his learnings and what it takes to enable success. With a goal of building up and then divesting from a business in three, he achieved just that in three years and three weeks.
You built an extensive career having come up through operational roles in ALDI as Area Manager and Region Director. Delivering results through the right behaviours can be challenging at times – as someone who has experienced so much, what would you say are the top three behavioural strengths you have developed over this time?
Self-awareness was key in how I worked with the people around me and my management style. I wanted to ensure I reflected a positive achievement culture that enabled their success. Central to this was communication – I couldn’t just be a doer. Leveraging my people was key, so painting the vision, engaging and empowering them were critical to driving the right kind of motivational behaviours. The three key themes were as follows.
- Communication: Regular and clear communication of the purpose, the strategic business plan and enabling the team’s ownership of their roles was key. Achievement comes from a sense of ownership and nurturing that in an environment of open communication facilitated an alignment of people’s roles and how they contributed to the big picture. I have a saying, ‘it is hard to walk through a tunnel without a torch’, an important point that notes communication facilitates guidance, no matter what the role.
- Empower your team, do not micro-manage: I had to trust that the people who worked for me were there with good reason and were able to be self-starters. However, I provided ongoing support when required and ensured that they were working in a professional and structured manner.
- Be a good coach: Provide specific, constructive feedback; have regular one-on-ones, use questions to help them shape solutions to their problems tailored to their strengths, and don’t forget to reinforce alignment with what we have to achieve.
“Self-awareness was key in how I worked with the people around me and my management style. I wanted to ensure I reflected a positive achievement culture that enabled their success.”
Your roles encompassed a breadth of responsibilities, covering business/strategy, process/operations and people/leadership aspects. How did you balance focussing on delivering strategic value back to the business while ensuring processes were effective and your people were engaged?
Achieving that balance required prioritisation, and an empowered team is the foundation for success. I know a team that is empowered will push through challenges and learning, allowing me to focus on more strategic matters.
- Build your people relationships quickly, right from the start. Build trust through open and regular communication and with clarity of expectations. Be open to their ideas to create an environment of learning, where there is comfort that learning comes from mistakes; and
- Really understand the business, how things work, the operations. Intentionally try and ‘break’ things to really understand how things work and learn. Allow your people the freedom to explore, building their troubleshooting and problem-solving skills to the point that they don’t need to come to you with problems.
Based on the above, I build the foundations of trust and an environment of safe learning. By empowering them to learn through mistakes, this created a culture of ownership and belief that allowed me to elevate across more strategic aspects.
During your time at ALDI, you were instrumental in the opening of new stores – what were your biggest learnings as a senior executive in ensuring success?
Empower and delegate. You cannot do everything yourself, you must learn to trust the people around you and be comfortable with delegation. Clearly communicate time frames and desired outcomes to ensure everyone is on the same page, then allow people to get on with it. Use questions as a leader to probe your people to feel empowered to work things out themselves rather than just giving the answer. It’s an investment at the start but repays itself in bounds in time.
You were the right hand to the Regional MD, effectively the COO. How did you enable yourself to elevate outside of just finance to take on operational leadership in your role?
Start with what you know, and I firmly believe everything comes down to numbers. Take a P&L – be curious about how the business achieved that number. Sit down with the people that make that number happen and dive deep into it. Bit by bit you will learn the drivers, and how things work by continually asking questions. This forms your baseline for building your operational framework, but also in building the foundation of trust with your business partners.
“I had a goal of building up the business in three years and then divesting – and after three years and three weeks I achieved just that. “
After 14 years with ALDI, you decided to start and run your own small business. How did you mentally prepare for such a large change in your life? What were your biggest challenges in making such a change and how did you overcome it?
Growth comes from continually challenging yourself. I learnt a lot in my 14 years with ALDI, one of the biggest things being a sense of ownership. ALDI promoted the view of approaching your role as if it were your business – they were my stores, my team, my sales. This sense of ownership was a catalyst for preparing me to make the step in running my own café business. Through that, I realised I wanted to do something most people are too afraid to do – start their own business. I leveraged the skills I learnt in corporate and personalised it even further. I had to come up with the strategy, review it, implement it and keep myself honest.
In that, the biggest challenge was time. All the responsibility rests on your own shoulders and it wasn’t just balancing the aspects of strategy, operations and people. It was also with your personal life, family and rest. Creating that balance was really important as it’s easy to immerse yourself in it and get burnt out. Through constant reflection of your goals and plans and remembering to have fun, it helps bring you back to your purpose – for me an overarching desire to achieve and knowledge that I was creating something from nothing. I had a goal of building up the business in three years and then divesting – and after three years and three weeks, I achieved just that.
Balancing your responsibilities as a leader is a challenge
Reflecting on your career pathway, where do you see your passion taking you next?
These last three years have shown me how to adapt to ever-changing events, manage a range of demands at any given time, and maintain a calm approach through difficult situations. I have never felt more prepared to provide my next role with a broad range of skills and expertise. Bringing the unique qualities of the corporate world and a business owner, this hands-on experience has really shaped a depth of resilience and focus which I feel is important in an ever-changing landscape. The huge breadth of areas I’ve been involved in lead me to target a role where I play as a right hand, an operationally focussed finance business partner, a COO. My passion is making my people, myself and the business a success.
What advice would you give to aspiring finance professionals looking to elevate into strategic and operational roles?
Immerse yourself in the business, know your role completely, but also understand the roles of your people/team and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty where need be. Coach your people to elevate them to grow in an honest environment where they feel empowered with a sense of ownership. Listen. Ask questions. And remember to always have one eye on the past, but the other eye set towards the future.
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