4/16/2008 1:32:00 PM
All change in the Warehouse
Two of the most iconic directors at Carphone Warehouse have left the business. And 50 head office managers will also go. Initial suspicions were that Carphone Warehouse was dispensing with two individuals who had rocked the boat too much for Carphone’s liking. There may be something in that, but that would do a dis-service to two individuals who did the tough jobs they were brought into do, and achieved success.
If you delve a bit deeper behind the changes, you can see Carphone realigning its business. There is a firm belief in Acton that the golden age of mobile phones – going from a niche yuppie audience to a mainstream one – is about to repeat itself, but this time with laptops and high-speed internet access. The new opportunity has made Carphone examine how the company operated during that boom time, and muse over the pitfalls of transforming from a dynamic, entrepreneurial small operation to a corporate giant.
Charles Dunstone always maintained that he wanted the company to retain the entrepreneurial spirit after it floated, and to some extent it has. However, it is very difficult to maintain that culture. That difficulty was epitomised by the staff anger over pay last week Ð something that would have deeply hurt Carphone when it was much smaller.
There is now a move to get that spirit back. It will mean a sharper understanding of what customers want, an ability to move quickly and effectively to opportunities, and an improvement in looking after customers and its staff. However, it is easy to get misty-eyed about a perceived golden age. Carphone has had to grow up, and doing that meant it drafted in the likes of John Durkan and Anthony Catterson. Both men were brought in to give the company a wake-up call, causing considerable resentment from some suppliers and employees. However, their appointments were undoubtedly vital at a time when Carphone needed to go from a cosy cottage industry to a slicker, more modern business. Now it needs to marry the two for the new challenge.