Global retail giant's top bosses share Grantham connection

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Thursday, 4.45pm - GETTING to the top in the retail business is not easy, but four Grantham men have carved out successful careers for themselves in retail giant Asda.

Thursday, 4.45pm - GETTING to the top in the retail business is not easy, but four Grantham men have carved out successful careers for themselves in retail giant Asda.Chief operating officer and president Andy Bond, retail director Andy Clarke, regional operations manager Mark Chilcott and Capehill Birmingham store manager David Lepley all grew up in Grantham.

As well as being employed by Asda and coming from the same town, the four have much more in common.

All four went to King's School - Andy Clarke and Mark Chilcott were in the same year group, a year above their future boss Andy Bond. David followed later, starting at the school in 1994.

They are all keen sportsmen. Andy Clarke and Mark played in the same waterpolo team together under coach Jim Caulfield and David played for the school team when he was a King's pupil.

Andy Bond and Andy Clarke played for Kesteven Rugby Club. Andy Clarke retired last year after enjoying many seasons playing in the first team with his two brothers Matt and Nick.

Andy Bond, who was also a member of Grantham Athletic Club, once played in the same rugby team as Ieuan Evans, who later went on to play for the British Lions.

The Journal decided to find out more about the quartet, including how their time in Grantham contributed to their success in the retail industry and what advice they would give to people starting a career in retail.

Chief operating officer and president Andy Bond

Failing his 11-plus has been a motivating factor throughout his life, says Andy, although he still gained a place at King's School.

He started his career working in engineering for British Gas, but frustrated at a lack of opportunities to progress, embarked on an MBA at Cranfield Business School. There, he was head-hunted by Asda 14 years ago.

Andy has held several roles within the organisation, includiing events manager, head of Asda brand and managing director of George Clothing.

His advice for getting ahead in retail is to "Make sure you are passionate about the job you are doing. The three things you need to progress in any organisation are hard work, a great attitude and most importantly luck."

Retail director Andy Clarke

Andy was responsible for bringing Asda to Grantham.

He moved to town from Skegness when he was five. His dad John was the village policeman in Great Gonerby and brought up the family with the help of relatives when Andy's mother Molly died at 37.

After leaving the King's School with what he describes as a "miserable set of results", Andy was sponsored by the former Fine Fare store in Castlegate where he had a Saturday job.

He says he is grateful to the store manager Denis Lever for giving him a start in the retail business.

Andy puts his success down to a combination of factors.

He said: "I played lots of water polo at school under the coach Jim Caulfield who bashed us into shape and I'm certain his influence on me has helped in business - plenty of competitive spirit.

"I'm certain that failing miserably at school has given me a huge incentive to succeed.

"I did have a time through the summer after leaving school when I worked at "Tony's Cafe" just earning a bit of cash and was spotted by one of my father's colleagues as I was mopping the loos.

"He said to my dad later "fancy a Kings boy mopping toilets". I know my Dad would like to pass on his regards today."

Andy's advice for anyone trying to make it in business is: "Retail is a great industry to work in but nothing comes for nothing.

"If you work hard, and I mean hard, put yourself out night and day, have common sense and be able to talk to people you will succeed.

"It's a people business, you either work with people or serve people.

"Those people who I think have been influential on my life are just ordinary folk with an odd expert.

"Don't look for the holy grail - just get noticed and don't wait until someone taps you on the shoulder, it rarely happens."

Andy still visits family and friends in Grantham and particularly enjoys going for a drink at the Nobody Inn.

Regional operations manager Mark Chilcott

Mark went to Gonerby Hill Foot Primary School where he first met Andy Clarke.

After living in London for eight years, he moved back to the area in 1997 and now lives in Hose in the Vale of Belvoir.

He quit school during his A Levels after being offered a management position with Fine Fare. He moved on to work for Iceland and was manager of their store in Braxton, south east London, which was trashed during the poll tax riots.

Mark's advice for budding retail workers is: "As with any job in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

"For anybody thinking about taking up a career in retail, go into it with your eyes open. This industry is not just about stacking tins of beans.

"The hours can be long, the commitment must be 100 per cent, but for those who really want it the job can be extremely rewarding and I don't regret a minute of my time in retail."

Store manager David Lepley

After starting off in Asda's Grantham store as a temporary worker over Christmas, David soon progressed on to the firm's management scheme and became a department manager at 18.

He has worked directly for Andy Clarke and Mark Chilcott and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his three colleagues.

David's tips for success in the retail industry are simple.

He said: "Be passionate about what you do. Be prepared to work hard. Never forget that your priority is the customer. Managing people is easy but leading them is a lot harder."

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