- Cecilia Vincent - 05 May 2015

Getting to know Douglas McCallum

What attracts you to the Group?
I have something of a lifelong passion for personalising cards and gifts. Naturally, therefore, I am really enthusiastic about the way that PhotoBox Group companies make their great gifting & greeting card experiences available to consumers.

I also greatly admire how the PhotoBox team are delivering high growth in a competitive and fast moving category while exercising strong operating discipline and a very high standard of Customer Care – doing all these things simultaneously takes a lot of skill and they are even having fun while doing it!

How do you think e-commerce has changed in the past 5 years?
Of the many trends two that I think are genuinely seismic are mobile and data science:

All the businesses I work with are a mobile businesses and PhotoBox is one that is very focused on being much more so. Frankly, all businesses need to rethink their core user experiences from the bottom up to create seamless, easy and delightful mobile-only experiences for customers that are already completely harmonious with offline and web-based experiences.

Data Science has changed e-commerce dramatically over the past 5 years and is an area where we at PhotoBox can really lead the charge – we’re increasingly able to capture, analyse, derive insights from, and then develop products in line with the data our customers give us, permitting us then to “personally” market to them and deliver them the increasingly personal service that delights them.

What are you hoping to bring to the business?
Beyond the objectivity that a non-executive can offer the executives – the key perspective of those who appreciate all the good work done and the good outcomes delivered, but retain sufficient distance from the day-to-day to be able to see how the PhotoBox Group’s customer experience – and, of course supporting Stan and his team in defining the long term strategy for the business, I think two things. I have built a business from $35m to $800m and therefore led through the multiple stages of growth that implies, and I have built a pan-European business organically through acquisition and integration. PhotoBox Group has very similar opportunities.

What are your views on personalisation?
Personally I’ve always had a fascination with personalisation, I have hand made gifts and cards for friends and family since I was a young teenager and I still do, with great delight if not quite as frequently as I would like: In our commoditised world I really enjoy experiencing surprise and delight a friend or family member gets from receiving something that was thoughtfully made “just for them.”

My enthusiasm about the PhotoBox Group companies’ products and services is therefore a very individual one to me, I’m genuinely excited about the way we make our consumer and gifting experiences available to regular shoppers.

If life is so ‘digital’ now – why do you think we still have a fondness for paper?
Actually I think it is precisely because so much of life has become so digital that, for special things, we have a fondness for enduring physical objects. I even think we who serve in the digital economy are feeling this first and more acutely; as the rest of the population’s lives are increasingly digitised (whether they like it or not), I think they too will feel more the urge & pleasure of turning digital footprints (pictures, moments) into a select number of “re-physicalised” objects, pictures etc. I do love the slide shows my kids and I make of our holidays for their grandparents, but I also really love the canvases of my kids snorkelling and white water rafting that are above the fireplace.

How do you make a business global while still providing a service that is very personal to your customers?
For perhaps the first time in business history, I believe it is the opposite that is true: Scale is the only efficient & sustainable way to provide products and services as personal as the ones we offer, for example, the data science that enables us to personalise for our customers is very difficult for smaller players to do as well or as economically.

What’s your favourite personalised item that you have purchased online?
Most recently, some (PhotoBox of course) change of address cards (a jokey collage) that was so fun and different that, (a) I got tons of positive comments, and (b) people actually updated my address properly!

Your experience in online business spans two decades, what are the most important changes you have seen?

  • Fast Internet ubiquity.
  • Trust in e-commerce.
  • The greater speed and certainty at which “truth will out” about business, politics, everything.
  • Mobile, mobile, mobile….

How can expanding businesses ensure that they support a happy workforce?
[Continue to] hire with the greatest of care – smart, creative, collaborative, high energy, honest & ethically reflective people of all sorts – a diverse team is a happier one.

Foster a culture where people from one part of the organisation are expected to highlight the exceptional work of their colleagues in another part of the organisation, publicly.

Invest in face-to-face comings together of team-members so that it is possible for everyone to feel a part of the bigger team and hear directly from their leaders about the big picture, and enjoy getting to know each other.

Above all else never stop focusing on the customer. It’s the delight of our customers that is the great unifying thread which also keeps us having fresh and fun times at work: Knowing who they are; hearing the calls that they just HAD to make to say how delighted they are; seeing some of the funny captions they put into their gift cards; watching them scream with laughter in a focus group, reading their “thank you” comments, wincing at their critiques of our occasional fowl-ups, followed by their surprised delight at the work-around, refund or other customer-loving initiative we took to make it right. These are the things that really bring us together and collectively motivate us for another push.