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What it’s REALLY like to take over as CEO during a pandemic

28 October 2020

As Autumn progresses, we are once again familiarising ourselves with rising infection rates and increasing concerns for our friends, families and colleagues. Our lives, freedoms and working practices pre-Covid 19 are a hazy memory as we all try and adjust to the new normal. As I complete my first 50 days at Carousel, I want to share some reflections on starting a new leadership role within this backdrop.

People first… always
Leadership is a privilege… I get to shape the agenda, pick our battles, build the team, watch the next generation of leaders develop and shine. However, this privilege comes with a fundamental responsibility – to provide a safe and secure environment for our colleagues, partners and our clients too. This no longer just means preventing a trip from a rogue laptop cable in the office or a slip on the warehouse floor, but instead it’s about protecting everyone against the systemic onslaught of a pandemic.

Our biggest priority at Carousel is to respond to the situation robustly, diligently and with speed. This is not simply creating tighter working protocols and rules for physical safety, but it’s also the hidden dangers associated with wellbeing, as long-term restrictions, lock downs and isolation take their toll. I am enormously proud of our response to the crisis over the last eight months - from a team that has shown both agility and innovation while adjusting to this new reality – culminating most recently with the launch of our new ‘wellness app’ for Team Carousel.

Staying relevant… service logistics through uncertainty
The health and wellbeing of our neighbourhoods and workplaces are under threat with a growing collective dependence on critical high-performance businesses. Whilst many sectors have pulled down the shutters and put colleagues on furlough, Agriculture, Healthcare and MedTech organisations have been busier than ever, keeping us fed and cared for. These critical high-performance supply chains are under greater scrutiny, more than ever, in the battle to the pandemic.

As a service logistics partner to many of these high-performance organisations, businesses like Carousel need to step-up to the plate. Our commitment to care, and in providing our clients with both reliability and certainty remain the table stakes and Team Carousel has done an amazing job of maintaining this service through adversity. However, service logistics needs to kick on further still. As such, we will continue to invest in digitising our services, we will build agile solutions, in light of other uncertain events like Brexit, and we will transform our support model beyond traditional distribution into truly data-driven, insight generating, supply chain partnerships.

Our culture is our lifeblood… &more
A few years ago, a colleague asked me why we were wasting time upgrading the values of a business I was running at the time. Her question made me pause and challenge whether this was a real business priority or just dropping a few warm words on a page that ticked a “to do” list item. The business in question ended up scaling at speed, seeing a fourfold increase in size, complexity and geographic spread over a handful of years. I know now that the business would have fallen over without its common purpose and strong values, because they were the key to protecting the magic of the firm through expansion.

At Carousel, Graham and the team have built a business with an enormous heart. Our guiding principle of whatever it takes, &more ensures that the client always stays front and centre of our business and now, as we manage through the crisis, &more applies as much in our relationships with our colleagues and partners, as it does with our clients. In today’s world, firms have no automatic right of survival… only businesses that remain relevant & have a strong purpose-led culture will thrive.

Team Carousel is stepping-up
High-performance businesses are complex ecosystems that require high-performance supply chain and service logistics solutions. As we approach our 35th anniversary next year, Carousel is in an amazing position to turn expertise, agility and innovation into next generation solutions and new ways of working with our clients. We will do whatever it takes, &more to nurture our big heart and special culture, to increase our relevance and impact for all high-performance businesses across Europe.

I have to say that taking on a new leadership position mid-pandemic hasn’t been easy: it means getting to know the organisation and our clients, keeping us safe, maintaining day-in and day-out service standards, all the while building a redefined service logistics platform for the future. But as the rollercoaster ride of 2020 continues into 2021 and beyond, I know that our relevance, our purpose-led culture and the bravery, care and commitment of Team Carousel will allow us to thrive.

We’ve got you.


A picture of Jonathan Simpson-Dent
Jonathan Simpson-Dent

Chief Executive Officer