Welcome to ‘Interview with an entrepreneur’, a series where we talk to entrepreneurs, industrialists & businessman and delve into their business mind. Today we interview Michael Ward who is the Managing Director of Harrods department store. Harrods is often considered to be the most upmarket department in London where it’s based. While it is not well known, the Harrods brand also includes other businesses including Harrods Bank, Harrods Estates, Harrods Aviation and Air Harrods.

Michael Ward, MD of Harrods Department Store

What does your average workday consist of?

The working day varies but is largely internal meetings circa 8 per day; external supplier meetings and at least one walk on the shop floor. Monday morning is going through all the previous week’s figures to decide on marketing and promotional activity and any visual displays to product.

How do you deal with increasing competition in your industry?
To compete you have to have very clear brand values and have a real competitive advantage. In each of these an example for us is service we perform 100 guest shops per week to determine the quality of the customer experience and have very clear objectives to increase this satisfaction score and to reduce any complaints.

Do you believe your target market has changed in the past five years?
Our core target market remains constant over medium time horizons.

Do you believe that young people who wish to start a business need to attend university?
I think that the key is how you learn your core skillset. I mentor a number of brands who are technically brilliant but have little commercial knowledge, university does not give a commercial grounding, that is learned in business that is why we are now offering A level students to get a degree but as part of a three year work programme with us.

Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment?
No I do not think it is the business environment that shapes you but the social environment.

Do you see a role for IT based products in your industry?
All the future will be knowledge based and IT is at the absolute heart of this, whether that be data capture and analysis or customer communication.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out today?
1. Always watch cash and not profit.
2. Make sure you have a very strong USP
3. Be prepared to make very large personal sacrifices.