‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Ed Barrow, managing director, Hellofood East Africa
1. What was your first job?
My first job was making sandwiches in a delicatessen in London. Things were going well until I refused to make tuna sandwiches because I didn’t like fish. I was then demoted to making coffee.
2. The parts of your job that keep you awake at night?
Bad customer experience. If a customer has a bad experience using our service it is very upsetting.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I used to work on a trading floor of an investment bank, which had a very aggressive atmosphere. If you made a mistake you’d be shouted at publicly. Since then I have been very detail-orientated for fear of making any errors. There was one French trader in particular who was pretty terrifying when angry.
4. Tell us about the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Instincts and gut decisions should never be overlooked. Everyone likes working to a plan but you need to be flexible and follow a path that makes sense for you at a certain point in time. Instincts are a far better guide; emotional thought is more nuanced and closer to the reality of a situation and serves as a better guide.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
Any success I’ve had so far is from listening to people around me, taking in as much opinion and information as possible. And then when you do have convictions, acting upon them.
6. What’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
I haven’t been to business school but from what I hear definitely on the job. There are infinite ways of leading your team – by example, by consensus, by authority, all of which can be effective if done well. You need to find a style that makes you an effective leader.
7. How do you relax?
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
8:30. After the running.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
What’s wrong with my business?
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Do it now. Never has there been a better time to reach a booming, young, educated, middle-class consumer.
Hellofood is an online food delivery service allowing users to order food from a selection of restaurants.