What I've Learnt: Simon Hathaway, Managing Director EMEA at Outform

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by Charlie Spargo
Simon Hathaway, Outform

Simon Hathaway manages Outform, the agency aiming to transform retail through insight, technology and creativity for clients including some of the high street's biggest names.

Outform specialises in consumer insights, permanent and semi-permanent displays, pop-up shops and activations - altering how consumers engage with retail partners. They work alongside clients around the world to optimise the customer experience.

With offices in California, Florida, Milan, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Shenzhen as well as London, Outform reaches a global audience.

We heard from Simon about the things that drive him.

What single daily practice of habit could you not do without?

I’d like to say something zen, but the truth is I have two vices; The Today Show in the morning and a large glass of red wine in the evening. 

What’s been your luckiest break?

Becoming Managing Director of Momentum at a time when I wasn’t quite ready for the step-up. I learned more in that year than I have in any other. It gave me the foundation of skills that I’ve built upon with every role since.

What’s the best investment you made, either financial or time?

Ski seasons in my early years was time well spent. Not just because I met my wife, but also because a good day in the mountains always brings perspective to my life - it’s nourishing for the soul.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

I’ve never been very good at it. For me, it’s less about balance and more about work/life integration, because at the end of the day, if you enjoy your job then it should never feel like work.

I fundamentally believe businesses have a responsibility to trust their employees. If someone prefers to work late because they want to take afternoons off to watch their children play sports, then their employers should be able to accommodate that. Because if you’re a professional, in the truest sense of the word, you shouldn’t be a slave to the clock.

Which book would you recommend to others and why?

'Let My People Go Surfing', by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, is an epic read about the education of a reluctant businessman. It’s a brand I have loved for almost 30 years and this gives you an insight into how it’s become such a positive beacon for change today.

Also, 'Thinking Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman. It’s a fascinating insight into how our brains work, and how we all have ‘missions’ that we go through in our daily lives. Personally, I use it to help develop and execute campaigns that cater for people’s ‘missions’ in ecommerce and physical retail environments, but it’s a great read for anyone working in almost any industry.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t worry about things so much. And experiment with different haircuts - who knows, the mohawk might have worked for you.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your life?

Andy Murray - the founder of Saatchi & Saatchi X, not the tennis player. He’s a pioneer in shopper marketing, and it was invaluable to work with him at the forefront of the retail experience revolution.

He taught me an awful lot, namely that you need to treat your target audience as people, not simply consumers, because the shopping context and mindset are often different.

This small, yet fundamental shift in attitude is even more relevant today when retail is only ever a click away and visiting a store must be understood in the context of behaviours around search, shopping and social channels. 

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I came 26th in the 1996 British snowboarding championships. My wife came 5th.

What does success look like to you?

At Outform, success happens when we’ve created reasons for people to visit stores time and time again. We do this with a human-centric approach that caters for the three types of budgets that we all have: money, time and frustration.

Personally, I feel successful when I’m fulfilled in everything I do - both in and out of the office.