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Name: Angus McDonald
Title: Chief Executive Officer
Organisation: Barbeques Galore Australia
Angus is the Chief Executive Officer at Barbeques Galore, a retailer of Barbeques and Outdoor products with a network of 90 stores across Australia. Since joining Barbeques Galore in 2019, Angus has led the development of new store formats, acceleration of new product development, and investment in brand and omnichannel capability. During this time, Barbeques Galore has been recognised as one of Inside Retail’s 20 coolest retailers in 2020, and has also been a finalist in the NRA National Retail Awards, and the 2021 Australian Retail Innovators Awards.
In a career spanning more than 20 years across retail operations, merchandising and buying, ecommerce and B2B, Angus has worked with some of Australia and New Zealand's most well known brands. During this time, Angus completed an MBA and was included on Internet Retailing’s list of the top 50 people in ecommerce in 2018. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his family, with his wife Gemma and two children, Alexandra and Charlotte.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Leadership will often require challenging decisions to be made. Doing what is right inevitably means that not everyone will be happy with your decisions. However, I do find that most will respect a decision even if they might not agree with it, when it is made with integrity, transparency, and honesty.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Like many who have built a career in retail, my journey started on the shop floor of a supermarket in my hometown in Victoria. I worked out quite early on that I enjoyed the pace of retail and the challenge that comes with leading people and building successful teams. From here I was able to secure a place on a management training program, and it has been a wild but hugely rewarding journey ever since, moving through a number of roles in Australian and New Zealand, working in a range of different business areas and ultimately into senior executive positions.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like to start my day early, getting to the office at around 7am to review the previous day's sales, catch up on emails and plan for the meetings I have that day, which usually involves a lot of reading.
Throughout the day, I will often be meeting with my team to check in on how each area of the business is progressing, reviewing plans for the year ahead, meeting with our key suppliers, or spending time out visiting our stores to hear from our salespeople and customers about the opportunities and challenges we have ahead of us.
The typical day usually finishes in my office completing any correspondence arising from the days meetings, catching up on any reading, including any white papers, news, or other reports. I usually make it home in time to spend some time on the couch with my family.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Recently, I have been working to more regularly practice a technique called 'appreciative enquiry'. This is a hugely valuable approach that creates the space for your team to be more innovative, build greater self confidence, and make better, more thoughtful decisions. Too often organisations rely on established norms and don't do enough to test their thinking with a range of perspectives. This approach is a great way to do that in a way that is very supportive and constructive.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are a number of books which come to mind, but perhaps the most profound would be 'Leaders Eat Last' by Simon Sinek. It provides for a great deal of reflection on how to develop a strong organisational culture with high levels of trust and high levels of team engagement. As you move into more senior roles, you become increasingly focussed not just on what your organisation does, but how it is done. Sinek frames an important concept around the 'circle of safety' which helps to build stable, confident, adaptable teams who can pull together no matter how challenging the circumstances.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Integrity is the cornerstone of trust; never compromise this with your team.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
The biggest lessons are usually learned during the challenging times rather than in good times. In a previous role I found myself leading a new division that had fallen well short of expectations. While we had researched this new business area extensively before we launched it, it was clear after the first 12 months or so that we would need to make some big changes. This involved accepting that a number of our early assumptions were incorrect, which was really difficult to do. Confirmation bias is very challenging to overcome, and takes great humility to recognise the errors made. However, once free of these assumptions, we made a number of significant changes which ultimately saw a different business to the one we had envisaged go on to be very successful.