M&B COO Robin Young on a collegiate culture

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Young arrived at the company two years ago, fresh from running a consulting business that he set up after a career in the financial services industry.

As a consultant he worked with the UK government on a project managing its shareholdings in the Bradford & Bingley and Northern Rock banks.

This background underlines his focus on commercial performance.

Prior to that, Young did a spell at Citibank and managed the integration of Egg Group when he was CIO and director of change there.

But, he also has some prior experience in the leisure industry with a spell at McDonalds.

Other companies on his CV include Ford, GlaxoSmithKlein, Halifax and Procter & Gamble, which is where he originally got interested in business IT.

His exposure to IT was much like that of many other senior executives, who showed an interest in the new technology of the day when their peers ignored its development in business.

“I’m not a techie by background, I’m a businessman,” he admits. “I’ve been able to speak both lingos and understand where the trigger points are for both parts of the organisation.”

He was introduced to M&B through an informal meeting with the company’s HR director, but was not initially set on joining it.

“I met him and there was an almost explosive energy about the character. The way he described the business was almost religious,” he says.

“I agreed to do some work on a contractual basis but when I arrived at the HQ, the welcome I got, well it hit home that this was a fun place to work. It was infectious.”

Measured management
Young is clearly fascinated by the business opportunities that IT can bring to the business, but is conscious of the danger of getting too absorbed in IT projects at the expense of other operational concerns.

He recognises that he needs a head of IT, be it CIO, IT director or CTO, to let him pull back and concentrate on the business strategy at a wider level.

In turn, he expects his own IT lead to come out from under his feet and engage with the rest of the operational board.

Young also expects them to have the strength to push back if he’s tempted to get too involved in IT projects again.

“I am a pain to deal with and I need them to say it’s not my job anymore, and that even though I might enjoy watching them deploy software over the weekend, to tell me to go home.”

Young is fond of all of his team and describes the culture as one of a Knights of the Round Table approach, where everyone has a voice.

His team, he says, contains 10 of the best operational experts in the casual dining industry.

There are many strong personalities within it, just as there always will be when every member of the team is best-in-class, often with conflicting opinions.

“My job is corralling those opinions,” he says. “My job is not telling people what to do.”

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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