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Richard Murray: Yeah, it’s an interesting time. I started at JB when I was 26. I’m only 45, so I’ve spent more than half my life at JB. But the opportunity to work in a different company like Premier with so many great brands and with [Premier chairman] Sol Lew is exciting. Closing one chapter at JB — which has been such an awesome part of my life, but also opening a new one — is really exciting.
PZ: From the outside, it looks like JB Hi-Fi is in great financial shape. Things are going well, so why would you leave?
RM: Sol gave me a call. I knew him well, but not particularly well. And we caught up maybe four or five times over the preceding two or three years. We had a chat about what he’s trying to achieve at Premier and where I was at at JB. And I guess it really did come down to [the fact that I had spent] 18 years at JB and seven years as CEO. I had also done 10 years at Deloitte where I had a great time in audit and corporate finance.
So what did I want to do for the next decade? I thought it would be a good opportunity to try a different type of retail. So I’m really excited.
PZ: It’s a great opportunity. You’ve been in the business of selling consumer goods, TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics for such a long time. And you’re now making the transition into fashion. How big an adjustment do you think that’ll be?
RM: Obviously the products are different. The reality is retail’s detail, and there’s a lot of cliches in retail, but giving the customer what they want is a pretty good place to start in retail, and making sure the in-store team feels valued and passionate about what they’re doing. And also making sure you keep your costs in check.
[They’re] the basics of any good retail chain and they stand the test of time.
If you think about what Premier Investments is, it’s got an investment in Breville, it’s got an investment in Myer, then it’s got these retail brands — Peter Alexander, Smiggle, the Just Group business. We’ve got a lot of things happening in that business. Sol definitely wants to grow Premier Investments and I’m really excited about the opportunity that presents. So I think the basics are the same. Every business wants to grow.
At JB Hi-Fi and Good Guys, we did a big acquisition and we’ve bedded that down. We’ve had things at JB like store-to-door in the middle of Covid in Victoria and we got great feedback at the time. We’re getting some awesome feedback in New South Wales at the moment.
Now I’m able to bring some of those learnings to a great business like Premier and work with the team. I’m big on empowerment. I really want to take the business to the next level and continue it’s strong track record of growth, which it’s enjoyed over the last decade.
PZ. You were at JB for a long time. Do you think you’re going to miss it?
RM: Oh yeah. Some of my best friends are at JB. It was probably the toughest decision I’ve ever made. My wife, Jackie and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. A CEO role is a partnership. As I said to Sol, “You’re getting two for the price of one because you’re getting Jackie and I.” She’s been a massive supporter of mine.
A CEO job has got lots of rewards, but there’s a lot people don’t see. There’s a lot of soul searching. There are some really tough decisions and people say it can be lonely. And so you rely on your partner outside work to be that city state when you’ve got things on at work. So from my perspective, I look at the opportunity to try something new. And yeah, that’s really exciting.
PZ: If you think about time at JB Hi-Fi as CEO, what are you most proud of?
RM: We’re so judged by our financial performance. You can look at the share price. I think when I took over, it was $15 and as we all know, share prices go up and down and in between, but, you know, call it $50 by the time I finished. I’m naturally proud of the team. We made a major acquisition, we’ve seen the market cap go from $1.5 billion to close to $6 billion. And so I personally feel proud of that.
But [I’m proud of] the feedback I’ve got from the team, where something I did was impactful or consistent with the culture, like we continued to do store-to-door last year. I said, “Guys, we can’t stand our team down.” With all due respect to Australia Post and Toll, my primary responsibility is to the JB team. And so I said, “Well, if we’re shut and we’ve got all these people, we need to keep them busy.” At one point we’d basically spun up an Uber workforce of 100 drivers driving our own vans — those are decisions where you feel like you’ve, you’ve walked the talk.
PZ: What does a normal day look like for Richard Murray? When you get up, what’s on the agenda?
RM: Well, there’s what I’d like to say and what actually happens. So I always get up at six. I find that if I get to work early, I can get the decks cleared. Then by 8.30-9am, it’s normally pretty full on.
A CEO role is really ‘bits-y’. The greatest trap for a retailer is not going out to your stores. You’ve really got to find the time. Whether you call it management by walking around, you need to stay in touch with the troops, talk to customers, shop your own products, but also more importantly, shop your competitors. I constantly purchase stuff online with Amazon or others, because I want to understand their shopping experiences versus the JB experience.
I think it used to be Warren Buffett who used to say that all the executives travel first-class, but I want you to travel economy with your competitors to understand them. As you get more senior and people get more used to some of the benefits of being a senior executive, it’s very easy to stray.
That’s what I love about JB, it has one of these unbottle-able qualities, it’s the DNA of the organisation. It almost won’t let you get ahead of yourself. And that is something very special.
It’s just this accountability to the organisation around its moral compass. I feel like it’s sitting over my shoulder when I’m making decisions: “Is this JB ethical?…What would be the right decision for the business?” I think that’s really important when I think about leadership.
PZ: My last question to you today is if you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
RM: Slow down and listen. The less you talk, the more you listen. Your team knows all the answers, your job as a leader is just to get it out of them and provide the platform for them to be their best. If you’ve got all your staff being their best, it’s the easiest job in the world.
And I would say, “Take care of you.” I’m 45. I know someone might say that’s young, but you know, my daughter’s 18. She’s already an adult. She’s got a car and she’s finishing year 12 this year. I’m gobsmacked it’s gone by so quickly. Smell the roses, make sure you look after both your physical and mental health because you’re never going to get your last year back.
And trust your gut. It doesn’t often send me wrong.