Founder and CEO,
Over a drink on Christmas Eve 1999 John Roberts bet a friend £1 that he could change the world of white goods retail as we know it. Almost seventeen years later, it has proven to be a valuable bet with AO.com now a public company, well on its way to becoming Europe’s best electrical retailer. AO has been instrumental in using the internet as a platform to change the way in which kitchen appliances are sold in the United Kingdom. But it is John’s obsession with delivering amazing customer service – through constant innovation – that has been the driver of AO’s success. With several years’ experience in the electricals trade, John admits he knew “absolutely nothing” about the internet then but fortunately a good friend worked in ecommerce. They saw the internet as a way to simplify the supply chain process, enabling AO to offer lower prices to consumers. Although John admits the business traded on price in the early days, he believes amazing customer service is what sets AO apart. “The rules of the game have changed but customer service is still the key. It’s an old fashioned principle but I am obsessed with constantly finding new ways to deliver better customer service. We do that by having the best team of people who share my passion, really care about the customer and are exceptional in the moments that matter”. We just call it the AO way. Down-to-earth John encourages all of his staff to have fun with customers and he gives them the autonomy to make financial decisions. “We don’t recruit on qualifications, we recruit on DNA. It’s a positivity test – if you’re not positive you’re not for us”. John’s philosophy drove the company, in 2014, to an IPO valued at £1.2bn. The company is now expanding across Europe with operations in Germany and Holland. His leadership was recently recognised achieving 2nd place in the Best Companies 2013 award for Inspirational Leader. When he’s not promoting the AO way ethos, John and wife Sally are kept busy with five children. A family man who is ambitious and loves to think BIG! Clearly something he’s carried with him since the day he made that £1 bet. John is a long standing supporter of the development of opportunities for young people and is Deputy Chairman of OnSide Youth Zones.