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In his opening comments at today’s Super Session, Sir Terry Leahy referenced Napoleon Bonaparte’s infamous quote “Britain is a nation of shopkeepers.” Although the comment wasn’t originally intended as a compliment, Britain has indeed become a nation of shopkeepers, with Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’sexperiencing their heydays in the early 1990s. Since then, Tesco has shot to prominence in the U.K. and around the world. This morning, Leahy, who became the retailer’s CEO in 1997 and has earned a bevy of accolades, offered his top 10 management lessons:

1. Find the truth. Don’t just rely on research or past experience. Find out where your company stands now by talking directly to the customer. They will be honest about what’s good and bad about your business.
2. Audacious goals. These can galvanize your organization. Tesco’s audacious goals included being the No. 1 retail choice for UK customers, being as strong in nonfood as it it in food, becoming a leader in global retailing and inventing retail services.
3. Vision, values and culture. These matter more than any plans, strategies or marketing tactics. Your staff can help you learn what your company’s values should be.
4. Follow the customer. You’re not going to be able to guess what the customer wants. Therefore, you need to stay close to them, observe them and be prepared when you see a change.
5. The Steering Wheel. How do you relate big-picture ideas to what your staff, at all levels, works on every day? Tesco has focused on setting specific measures for customers, community, operations, people and finance. Everyone in each part of the circle knows how they relate to the company’s overall strategies.
6. People, process, systems. This is the process of transforming your plans into the customer experience.
7. Lean thinking. Leahy read about how Toyota cleaned up its manufacturing process, and used it as a model for how to make Tesco’s business leaner.
8. Simple beats complex. Develop a culture of simplicity. Communications was one of Leahy’s examples. Tesco turned to the newspaper industry to better understand how to communicate simply.
9. Competition is good. Learn from your competitors and don’t focus on their faults. Focus on their strengths.
10. Leadership. Leahy’s favorite definition of this word: A leader takes you further than you would go on your own.
In addition to Leahy’s insightful management lessons, he offered the audience six drivers of growth as we emerge from the recession. First and foremost, customers will gravitate toward brands they trust. Second,information is vital. Customers now know a lot more about your business and vice versa, so make sure your company is transparent. Third, health is big. Customers want products that will help them live longer and look better doing it. Fourth, customers crave convenience more than ever.
Rather than doing a weekly well-planned shopping trip, customers are popping into stores whenever they can fit it into their busy days. Fifth, what problems can you solve for your customers? Simplicity is key, both as a goal for your business and your customers. Finally, climate change is a major driver. There are business opportunities for retailers who can offer low-carbon products and living for consumers.
By MEGAN CONNIFF | Published: JANUARY 12, 2010 | Retail’s BIG Blog