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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

Take five with Roz

Five minutes, five questions.

Roz Cuschieri, Chairwoman of Emily Crisps, joined the School for CEOs Faculty in 2017. Here she reflects on her career and shares some of her most poignant learnings. 

Roz Cuschieri, I am privileged to be the Chairwoman of Emily Crisps, which is a small start-up food business based in London. It’s my first chair role and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, I joined the company in 2016.

I also sit on a number of other Boards with a non-exec hat on, so I am newly appointed to the Board of Worldwide Cancer Research which is a cancer research charity looking at pioneering first aid research, headquartered in St. Andrews. And I have sat for many years on the Board of Lightbody Ventures which is a business in Glasgow where we look to marry fantastic food with international brand licences...and that keeps me busy!

 

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGES?
One of the biggest challenges I had as Chief Executive [at Genius Gluten Free] was keeping pace: keeping the organisation, both structurally and from a resourcing perspective, in pace with that rapid level of growth, both in the UK and internationally. We were growing so fast and looking to secure and recruit talent, looking to ensure we’d got enough manufacturing infrastructure in place in the right areas, was pretty challenging.

 

…AND SUCCESSES?
I absolutely love being involved in developing quality brands. In my 20 odd years working, I think I’ve gained the most pleasure from seeing those brands grow, both geographically – in the case of Warburtons where we grew to be the largest food brand in the UK from a regional baker – to Genius, where we grew from a small pioneering free-from brand into an international player. I really enjoyed that.

I’ve been very fortunate to come across some fantastic people in my working career and I’ve persuaded a number of them to ‘join the journey with Roz’. I’ve enjoyed building out great teams and enjoyed working with people who are like-minded and have similar visions.

 

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GREAT CEO?
Certainly resilience, we face into uncertain times. Absolutely curiosity and interest and just wanting to know a little bit more about a lot of things is important to a Chief Exec. I think it’s also even more important to listen – both to the marketplace and particularly to your customers or your consumers, and certainly to your team and your people. I think they are really invaluable attributes of a Chief Executive.

We work in uncertain times. We’re leading in times of great uncertainty, particularly externally, so a healthy dose of optimism is something that I think will help you enjoy being a Chief Exec!

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STEPPING UP TO CEO FOR THE FIRST TIME?
I remember when I first started working for McVities and I had joined the graduate programme, and I’d moved to London from Edinburgh and it was all kind of wow and shiny and new, and my boss said, “this job will change you”.

This was in 1990 and I remember thinking to myself, I may learn different things but it isn’t going to change me. And I think it’s really important for new leaders or people moving into leadership or Chief Exec roles to really think about what’s important to them - What are their core values? What motivates them? What drives them? – and hold onto them, because it’s who they are.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR 18-YEAR-OLD SELF?
If I was talking to my 18-year-old self I would encourage me to be brave. I had a really narrow field of vision when I was 18 and I thought that was it! But actually I would encourage myself to be braver and have the courage to achieve what can be achieved, because actually you can do so much more than you think you can.

 

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