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Be the business: how to be ambitious – Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chair, Be the Business

About This Episode

Our guest today is chair of Be the Business and former chair of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield. With a mission to maximise the potential of business, Sir Charlie believes in mentorship and collaboration between scale-ups and big business, to share the passion of the entrepreneur with the know how of corporations. From serving in the military to fighting on the frontline for business, this is the story of a leader who believes that business is the source of the solutions, and the driving force behind a solid COVID-19 recovery plan and economic bounce-back.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chair, Be the Business

Sir Charlie Mayfield chairs Be the Business and the Productivity Leadership Group, which focus on stimulating and encouraging competitiveness and growth in businesses across the UK. He was Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership from 2007 to 2020, having joined the Partnership in 2000, with responsibility for business strategy and development for both John Lewis and Waitrose and for developing the Partnership’s online strategy. He became Managing Director of John Lewis in January 2005 before taking up his appointment as Chairman of the Partnership in March 2007. Charlie began his career as an officer in the army. He joined SmithKline Beecham in 1992 and became Marketing Manager for the Lucozade brand, before moving to McKinsey & Co in 1996, where he worked with consumer and retail organisations. He also serves as chairman of QA Limited, a leading technology and IT skills solutions provider, and a trustee of The British Museum and Place2Be. He received a knighthood in June 2013 for services to business.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

Identity by Francis Fukuyama – it didn’t change my life but has helped me to understand some of the undercurrents that are shaping politics and society.

What are you watching at the moment?

Rotten – a documentary series on Netflix about the global food industry

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

People who get in and on in work. The workplace can be a vector for social mobility, perhaps the most potent and powerful one of all.

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’.

Balance and progress.

What is your best tip for life?

Embrace insecurity, it’s key to performance and drive.

A quote for life

“Nothing is ever as good or as bad as the first reports of excited men [or women].” – William Slim

What is your lockdown soundtrack?

  • Short Change Hero – The Heavy
  • Permanent Holiday – Mike Love
  • This Too Shall Pass – Jamestown Revival
  • Motherland – Natalie Merchant 
  • Rapper’s Delight – The Sugar Hill Gang

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