Lord Mark Price has had an incredible journey to becoming UK Minister for Trade and Industry, and then onto the House of Lords. This started with an initial 25-year career at the John Lewis Partnership, later becoming Deputy Chairman at Channel 4 and John Lewis Partnership, as well as Managing Director at Waitrose. Mark represents and champions the nourishment of employees and businesses focused on employee engagement and happiness. His love of writing has led him to author a number of books for business, food lovers and children. His passion for people as a focus for business success, as well as his diverse experience, interests and accomplishments, led me to ask for an interview.
Mark and I have been connected for a number of years, which I believe started through a readership of eachother’s newsletter articles (mine on digital business and strategy, and his from two successful online employee engagement ventures). This is how it went:
You have had an impressive career of 34-years at John Lewis Partnership as Managing Director Waitrose and Deputy Chairman, followed by a variety of Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and Non-Executive Director roles at organisations such as Channel 4, and The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Fairtrade and Coca-Cola. You have now founded WorkL and Engaging Business to help people have a better working life. What were the highlights of that vital segment of your career, and what are the key things you learned, contributed and achieved during that journey?
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the John Lewis Partnership, it shaped not only my career but my mindset for how to run a company and how to create a happy and engaged workforce, which results in commercial success for a company. In short promoting happiness at work is good for individuals, organisations, society and the economy. That’s been the key lesson of my working life. Working now to deliver that around the world has become my focus. Launching Duchy Originals at Waitrose was a big commercial deal and also a highly beneficial partnership for the supermarket. I’ve always tried to make a wider contribution through my involvement with charities. It makes me feel good to be helping others. Socrates said altruism brought the highest form of happiness. I agree. I’ve therefore been thrilled to be the founding Chairman of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, as well as Chairman of Business in the Community, Fairtrade and the Chartered Management Institute.” Lord Mark Price
You joined the House of Lords as a Life Peer and became the UK’s Minister for Trade and Investment in 2016 – 2017, responsible for Free Trade Agreements. According to interviews in a variety of sources, Brexit was a key driver for your departure. If there is anything you would like to say to the British public, to help settle any concerns no matter what the outcome, what would it be?
“I didn’t leave the job because of Brexit. Although I campaigned to remain in the EU. I stayed in my post for more than a year after the referendum to set up future trade deals, start negotiations on our membership of the WTO and to write the Trade Bill. I only left once I had progressed all of that work. The arguments for staying or leaving the EU are finely balanced. There’s no reason why, with the right policies the UK can’t be successful outside”. Lord Mark Price
You have authored a number of books and are the founder of two online businesses ‘WorkL’ and ‘Engaging Business’ focused on employee engagement and tools to support a happy work life. How much of this was inspired by the culture and partnership structure (all employees as partner stakeholders), at John Lewis and Waitrose, and what top tip would you give to employers to maximise the potential of their workforce?
“I kicked off my work life at John Lewis, on the Graduate scheme, so the company’s values really shaped my view of how businesses should be run, but more importantly, how its employees should be treated. An engaged workforce helps to improve a company’s commercial success by 20%, so it’s a no brainer to ensure that your team is happy and developed. My Six Steps to Workplace Happiness is a handy tool to help employers ensure that they are developing all areas of their employees. 1. How do you Reward and recognise your employees? 2. How do you share information with your employees, how much, how little? 3. How do you empower your employees? 4. How do you care for their wellbeing, do you evaluate your employees happiness often? 5. Does your company or organisation instil pride in your employees, do they feel pride working for the company? 6. How much job satisfaction does your team get from what they do?“, Lord Mark Price
You are also the author of ‘nourishing’ books for food lovers and children. Which of these books did you have the most fun developing, writing and promoting, and why?
“I loved writing all of my books but I really enjoyed writing my children’s stories. I have published The Foolish King (a book to help children learnt the game of chess in a fun way) and have three book series underway”. Lord Mark Price
If there were one single thing you could do to help make the world a better place, what would it be?
“I’m on a mission to make everyone at work happier! We spend so much of our time at work, it’s not right that it’s the ‘norm’ to hate work. Who wants to hate where they are or what they do for eight plus hours a day? The term ‘work-life balance’ shouldn’t really exist, it’s all about enjoying your work and enjoying your home life. I created WorkL to lead the way in transforming work into a happy place.” Lord Mark Price
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