Mobile retailer Fonehouse is going back to basics with a more family feel after the shock departures of CEO Simon Douglas and commercial director Mark Noonan last week.
Fonehouse chairman Clive Bayley said the departures followed a restructure that sees him resume his role as CEO. He said he decided to ‘take back control of Fonehouse’ because he felt the business was in danger of ‘losing its creativity and family and community culture’ under Douglas’ stewardship.
Douglas’ and Noonan’s departure, revealed by Mobile online last week, came as a shock to the industry. Both had joined Fonehouse less than six months previously as part of a major strategy to double the size of the business in 18 months. Douglas, who was former head of Virgin Megastores and Zavvi Entertainment Group, joined in November 2012. He was tasked with improving the day to day running of the business and integrating the b2b business. Noonan, who had held senior roles at both HMV and Virgin, came on board in January this year, charged with raising performance at Fonehouse.
Bayley (pictured) said: ‘Was it a mistake to bring them on board? No, I don’t think so. I brought them in to put structure into the business and they did a great job of that and it is now much better operationally. However, I brought in too big a team to run a small company. We are a wacky, family type business where everyone gets on well. Staff started to say they didn’t like how corporate it had become.
‘It just made it boring, incredibly boring. The staff was bored and so was I. It had lost that sparkle and spin. Putting on that corporate hat was a step too far when we are essentially a community business.’
Bayley has promoted Fonehouse B2B director Russ Wheeler to group sales director in the wake of Douglas’s departure. He said: ‘Simon’s regime is full on process which is great if you have a lot of divisions, but for a small company like ours it was too much process and not enough sales, which is why I have brought in Russ, who is very sales driven.’
He denied speculation that his decision to bring on Douglas had been part of wider plans to sell the business, which have since been shelved. He said: ‘That was never the case... I just don’t want to lose that Fonehouse magic. I am not in it for the money. I want to keep Fonehouse vibrant and lively so I need to be back in the driving seat, keeping it really happy and really creative.’
Bayley said the company is still on track to expand the business with ‘big plans’ to take Fonehouse’s retail business forward. The company, which has 45 franchise stores and four directly managed stores, is aiming to take on up to two new franchise partners a month.
Author: Carol Millett