Five Minutes With...
Sebastian Lazell is well known for developing, nurturing and promoting brands, from ghd to Unilever. His most recent challenge has been taking on the role of Managing Director to rejuvenate the iconic Derbyshire pottery manufacturer, Denby.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Many people have played their part, including my grandfather, who left school at 13 and ended up running a major multinational business, as well as my wife for going with me to live and work in far-flung corners of the world and raising a beautiful, happy and balanced family.
What’s the toughest challenge you've ever faced in your career?
That’s a hard one! I think moving to run Unilever Australasia – which at the time was over a billion pound business – without the experience of having run a company before, is definitely up there.
What lessons have you learnt working for successful brands?
Strong brands are never built overnight; it takes time and patience and consistency. Plan for the long haul but go quickly.
Do you feel there is a weight on your shoulders being the Managing Director of a brand with such legacy?
There is a responsibility and an honour in being entrusted with a brand and business of such tenure and one so deeply ingrained in the local community.
You have come from a background of personal care to pottery; how are you finding the change?
The truths that guide successful consumer businesses apply just as much, even if the products differ. But there are important differences too, not least that Denby is a considered purchase, so we must help our potential consumers discover that Denby has the perfect blend of beautiful design that looks amazing and is also practical to use.
What's been the highlight of your career?
The opportunity to live and work in different parts of the world, meeting people and discovering places that I would never have encountered without my job, from raising a family in the USA to exploring Australia and New Zealand, and discovering the delights of
Derbyshire, a county I had not had the opportunity to know before now.
How do you keep ahead of your competitors, in terms of price and product?
Firstly, an unwavering attention to quality; secondly, being closest to what consumers and customers really want and delivering it; and thirdly, inspirational designs that create that 'must have' response.
You're responsible for more than 800 employees. How do you keep them motivated and driven?
Frequent communication and openness about the direction the business is heading in and how we are performing is exciting for all Denby people and builds their clarity and confidence.
What'ss your top tip for running a successful business?
Unleash the power of your people because that's when great things happen.
And finally, have you been successful in making your own pottery?
I have to admit that I haven't. I know my own limits and leave that to the masters at Denby.
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