He is now Managing Director of the Society for All Artists, but Carl Gamble’s career began by rising up the ranks at retail giant Next. Here he looks back on the steps in his career and how they have shaped his leadership style.
Managing Director – Teaching Art (2017 – Present)
Starting in my current role back in Jun 2017 was, without doubt, the biggest challenge in my career to date. Not only was I taking on responsibility for the group of companies that we have (The SAA, Artcoe and Artgallery.co.uk), but starting in a completely new sector added an even greater level of intensity and trepidation. However, within a matter of weeks I soon realised that the art community was welcoming, supportive and friendly.
The team at Teaching Art couldn’t have done more to help me find my feet and learn about all the intricacies of the myriad of mediums that we support. My approach to how a team should operate has always been to support the ideas that individuals come up with and look to guide them to an end result that is right for our customers. I’ve certainly never been one for a 'top-down' approach where ideas only come from above, something I learnt from my time at Next.
Head of Business Development & Marketing – Next Directory & Online (2013 – 2017)
For five years, I had the fantastic opportunity of leading the team tasked with growing Next Online in both the UK and across the world. It was a very exciting time, coinciding with the internet shopping boom, and allowed me to learn a lot about e-commerce. The international scope made this even more interesting as shopping styles and cultures vary so vastly in every country, adding a whole other dimension to each opportunity.
I was also fortunate to work closely with the senior management team at Next. I learned so much from each of them, none more so than Simon Wolfson, Next’s CEO. The ideas and suggestions that came from him daily gave me the opportunity to widen my experience and thinking. My own ideas were also taken on board - many still form part of the online shopping experience.
Financial Controller – Next Online (2011 – 2013)
My career prior to marketing and business development was in finance, and the nine years that I spent in the team at Next took me on a journey that culminated in being responsible for the team that managed the finances for Next Directory and Online. Alongside the fundamental parts of the role – keeping spending in line with budgets and knowing the reasons behind costs and sales – the finance team at Next were seen as a valuable elmeent in the decision-making process. For me, the financial modelling was the most interesting part of the role - trying to predict the outcome of a proposed future course of action.
Working closely with the wider business management team allowed me to learn a lot about how things worked and ultimately gave me the knowledge to progress within Next. I quickly learned that it was important to know the subject matter in great depth to be sure that I could answer not just the first question, but also the second, third and further questions that would inevitably follow. I’ve taken this through my career in all my roles. It’s not enough to know the basics of something and scratching the surface will always reveal more - but it’s up to the individual to keep digging. Frequently there’s an even greater prize below the surface, that all too often is missed.
Finance Manager – Next (2004 – 2011)
For seven years in my early career, I was fortunate to be able to work across five different areas of the business and learn about a wide range of areas including franchising, store retail, product procurement, currency management and stock management. The one common factor across all these roles was the importance of working as a cross-functional team and not in silos. So often in many businesses, good ideas are missed as a result of the wider team not coming together to make the most of their combined strengths.
Carl Gamble is Managing Director of The Society of All Artists.