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Nick Davis

Nick Davis, Branch Manager at Waitrose

BA History, graduated in 1998

MA History, graduated in 1999

Nick Davis is a Branch Manager at Waitrose. To reveal expert advice from Nick, click on the questions below.

[Q] What are the day-to-day tasks when working in your sector?

[A] Very varied. Essentially running a branch means being responsible for 200 Partners (Employees), ensuring the Management structure is effective in the smooth running of a business serving many thousands of customers. Day to day interaction and communication is the main element of the job with Partners, Customers, Outside Authorities, Central and Head Office teams and other branches. There are many Key Result Areas (KRAs) important to our business- from the obvious financial sustainability of the business to the happiness of Partners and Customers, all of which are measured and for which I am accountable. There is a huge amount of autonomy and scope for being proactive. Branch Managers are expected to exhibit positive ability and behaviour in the following specific areas: Strategy & Vision, Enduring Legacy, Operational Compliance (or 'Disciplined Execution'), and Transformational Change.

As the Food Retail industry develops the role is becoming increasingly diverse. Not only do I manage a traditional food shop, we also have a thriving internet delivery business and we a vibrant café. Hospitality and 'Omni-channel' retailing are really important to our future, and I anticipate running more services as time goes by.

[Q] Do I need specific experience to work in your sector?

[A] Not necessarily. The qualities desired are generally transferable- a love of food and an outgoing demeanour with people definitely helps. Some experience of the front-line helps, particularly interaction with customers and will help you develop empathy to people you line manage.

[Q] What skills and qualities do I need to work in your sector?

[A] I have described some of them above. The role and sector is generally pretty dynamic and you need to be able to handle a fast changing environment and anticipate events. Ideally you will have a high level of self-motivation, good self-awareness, a grasp of your own strengths and limitations, a positive attitude, strong analytical skills and a really strong to desire to achieve great results whilst being sensitive the needs of all team members.

[Q] Do I need a specific degree to work in your sector?

[A] No, there are all sorts of different degrees that can help towards being successful in management roles.

[Q] What are the perks of being in your sector?

[A] It’s a great environment to be involved in teamwork, leading and motivating people, and playing a part in one of the biggest industries in UK. Waitrose and the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) specifically is a unique organisation, as a co-owned business and has a strong ethical approach. The sheer variety of work makes it constantly interesting and challenging. The opportunities to progress and experience different environments also make it enjoyable.

[Q] What are the downsides of working in your sector?

[A] There aren’t many. Waitrose has a really sensible and supportive approach to work/life balance, which some organisations within the sector do not necessarily promote. 

[Q] Where can I find out which are the best companies to work for?

[A] There is a vast amount of information available online about the key employers within the food retail industry.

[Q] Do I have to work in London to be in your sector?

[A] No- Waitrose HQ is Bracknell, although most Graduates are encouraged to work in branches in the first place. There are almost 300 branches across the UK and the opportunities are diverse.

[Q] Where can I look for jobs?

[A] The 'graduate trainee' route is particularly competitive. Approaching a particular branch or regional HR is sometimes a good route; Waitrose is taking on Fast-track Managers in the South West at present so approaching the local branches would be at good route (Exeter, Sidmouth, Okehampton, Holsworthy, Torquay, Saltash and Wellington are all within 50 miles of Exeter). Flexibility is desired but not always critical to success.

[Q] DOs and DON'Ts of applying for jobs in your sector:

[A] DO – research the business you are applying for (it may or may not suit your approach).

DO – try and get some experience to see if it’s the environment for you. 

DON’T – be afraid of getting stuck in and working hard!

DON’T – make too many assumptions about food retail; there is a huge variety of organisations and approach!