Chair Bio

John Watkinson

Cambridgeshire

John enhanced the profitability of a host of UK retailers during twenty-five years on the retail frontline – recovering retail brands and building businesses across a variety of sectors.

In 1999, he joined Hamleys plc, reinventing the iconic brand, creating the highly profitable Bear Factory business and leading a successful management buyout of the company to become Chief Executive. In 2005 John led a management buy-in to the Jones Bootmaker footwear business, backed by Barclays, and grew EBITDA by over 50% in two years. In 2008, he set up Retail InsideOut to advise retailers and retail suppliers on business growth, supply chain improvement, operational effectiveness and leadership skills.

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Alongside his retail work, John is a Group Chairman for Vistage International, the world’s leading organisation for Chief Executive development . He currently works with more than thirty businesses generating turnover of over £500m and employing more than 3,000 people.

John has been a non-executive director since 2005 and sat on the board of Anglian Water and the Crown Commercial Service for many years. He is currently a non-executive Chairman and board advisor to several businesses – both in the UK and internationally.

John has been happily married for twenty-nine years and has two grown-up children studying at University. He recently resumed playing golf after retiring from his local cricket team!

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Types of Group run by this Chair

Successful leaders combine good business sense with inspiration, guidance and unwavering authority. Connect with up to 16 peers from a diverse range of non-competitive businesses and backgrounds in this one-of-a-kind peer advisory and executive leadership development program.

The Vistage Chief Executive Program creates a unique environment that provides each member with individual insight, coaching, strategies and leadership skills to help you make better decisions and achieve better results for your company. Harness the power of a group of fellow executives all driven to do the best for themselves and their peers.

We tailor each Vistage private advisory group to ensure that each member get the maximum benefit possible.

We have specific groups for CEOs/MDs running larger SME business (typically £3-£50m); executives running smaller businesses (typically £1-3m); key executives who report to a CEO/MD; and for organisations that wish to bring Vistage inside their organisation for all their senior management team. Find out more about the different Vistage group offerings

Designed to help results-driven key executives build leadership skills and bring new thinking, new ideas and new strategies to the table - in a trusted peer group environment.

The Vistage Key Executive Program empowers you to become a stronger asset to your CEO and team. Benefit from sharing a peer group perspective, expert insights and executive coaching to give you with the knowledge, strategic thinking and confidence you need for the fast-changing business environment of today’s modern organisation.

Join up to 16 successful executives from a diverse range of businesses and backgrounds and build your skills through challenging discussions, fresh perspectives on the key executive role, strategies to help your business grow, and expert guidance, learning and coaching from Vistage speakers.

We have specific groups for CEOs/MDs running larger SME business (typically £3-£50m); executives running smaller businesses (typically £1-3m); key executives who report to a CEO/MD; and for organisations that wish to bring Vistage inside their organisation for all their senior management team. Find out more about the different Vistage group offerings