Leaders and entrepreneurs in focus: Lysa Campbell, CEO at Retail Marketing Group

Retail Marketing Group CEO, Lysa Campbell, on the importance for leaders of reflection, gaining trust, and having open conversations that ‘encourage people to have a better understanding of one another and the world around them’

‘Understanding how what you did yesterday will impact today and tomorrow is an important evaluation for any leader or entrepreneur,’ says Lysa Campbell, CEO at Retail Marketing Group and a firm believer in the power of reflection. Innovation and reflection are often key in my role,’ she affirms. ‘Adopting an approach of reflection means that as a wider company we are always learning…’

A leader with a background as the founder of a high-growth field marketing agency, Campbell covers the importance of gaining your team’s trust, and of diversity of thought facilitated by having open conversations, in this interview with Business Impact.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role and what it involves?

As an experienced agency leader with a successful background in creating business growth and diversification, I’m currently leading Retail Marketing Group (RMG) as CEO for the UK, having joined the agency in 2018.

Innovation and reflection are often key in my role. RMG’s aim is to provide forward-focused solutions that meet our clients’ needs. Adopting an approach of reflection means that as a wider company we are always learning, refining how we operate to be at the top of our game, and making sure we are adapting to the changes happening around us.

My role specifically spans a wide range of departments and responsibilities. RMG offers field marketing and brand experience solutions as well as Storey, our newly launched video chat shopping service. I oversee all these propositions, manage the sales and marketing teams, and make sure every one of our clients gets the best possible service.

Did your Business School/university experience help get your business off the ground? If so, how?

People are often surprised when they learn that not only did I not attend university, but I also don’t have A-level qualifications. After I finished my formal education, I had to decide on the path I wanted to take and drive it forward myself. I am a firm believer that how far you get in life is all about mindset and making the most of opportunities, coupled with a steely determination to achieve more.

During my career, however, I have sought and undertaken courses that have contributed to my success, delivering a combination of immediate and long-term impact. Added to that, I have been fortunate enough to have benefited from having some brilliant role models and mentors from whom I learned a huge amount that I took into setting up my own business.

What single piece of advice would you offer undergraduate and postgraduate students of business and management who plan to start their own companies after completing their studies?

My experiences have taught me to stick to my principles regardless of how difficult the decision is. No matter what, you must believe in yourself and trust that the principles that have carried you so far will continue to help you make the right decisions.

The eight years I spent building and growing my first business were not easy. Through many mistakes and moments of doubt, I learnt that the most important thing that I could do was to make time for reflection. We can only learn in hindsight, so understanding how what you did yesterday will impact today and tomorrow is an important evaluation for any leader or entrepreneur.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you’re currently facing, both as a leader and as an organisation?

As a leader, one of the best things I can offer my team is bravery, showing my team that I am prepared to make difficult decisions. I had to prove this trait to my team early on, when I had to make the choice to fire a client because they weren’t the right fit. My team had raised their concerns with me, and it was my responsibility to listen, understand and act to show my loyalty to the team. At that stage, our agency was dependent on [that client’s] revenue, however I was grateful to recognise the potential long-term impact my inaction would have, including a negative work culture or losing the trust of my employees.

Being vulnerable, open and honest with your team goes a long way to earning their trust, respect and loyalty.

Do you feel that leading a company has enabled you to make a positive impact? If so, how?

Without a doubt, yes. I hold strong to the fact that the most positive impact a leader can make is with the next generation of the workforce. An employee’s success – from their perspective of an industry and the decisions they make, to how they navigate their careers –  are all heavily influenced by the types of leaders they can observe and learn from.

I take pride in leading a company that welcomes people from all walks of life, with a heavy focus on diversity and inclusion in our corporate strategy. We mostly do this through diversity of thought, bringing varying, diverse viewpoints to the table. Discussions that come from these open conversations encourage people to have a better understanding of one another and the world around them. Tech companies need to prompt these conversations wherever possible, starting with visible representation in leadership roles.

Outline the importance of diversity to your company’s strategy and why you feel it is important to business approaches as a whole today.

Over the last few years, diversity in the tech industry has slowly been improving. It is clear that companies are trying to take steps in the right direction to become more inclusive through various initiatives, although there is a lot more for us all to do.

At RMG, we are trying to ensure diversity is at the core of everything we do. We know we have a long way to go but are seeing positive results from ensuring our push for diverse thinking runs right through from the recruitment process, to offering individually personalised development plans and opportunities to grow. We treat everyone as an individual and provide the support and opportunities we feel enable everyone to develop at their own pace and be the best version of themselves.

Lysa Campbell is currently CEO for the UK at Retail Marketing Group. She started her own agency in 2008 with only two staff. Seven years later, that agency had a turnover of £9 million GBP, with more than 2,000 staff.

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