CEO conversation with Peter Duffy

By Mark Runacus

It was almost at the end of the evening that Hugh Burkett asked a question from the audience that was almost certainly on everyone else’s mind. I’ve paraphrased it a bit here: 
'so, you’ve got the top job Peter, why don’t you want to keep it?'

And Peter’s slightly guarded response I think sums up the impression he left us all with.  Peter’s a smart and decent Scouser, an inspiring customer-centric marketer that you’d want to work for.  He said his reasons for only agreeing to the CEO role as an interim thing were private, but he gave some strong hints when he said that for him the CEO job had four important aspects to it: the board, the share price, the people, and his family. And the one area that he couldn’t give on was his family. He added that he loved his customer job and he didn’t want to get disconnected from it.

Gemma Greaves guided us through a fascinating, frank, and wide-ranging conversation. Peter said he loves getting stuck in and being in the thick of things, which he partly attributes to a childhood fear of being left out by his siblings. He talked proudly of the work JustEat is doing around mental health in the workplace; how he produces a three-minute video every week which he shares across the company telling everyone what he’s been up to and where he’s been.

Not surprisingly he talked eloquently about the importance of customer-centricity.  “Customers, customers, customers” he said almost as if it were a mantra he repeats to himself often. And he felt his customer focus was tremendously helpful in the CEO role, even though he now spends more time with his bankers and lawyers than his advertising agency.

He had straightforward advice for agency people in the room – he makes those partner choices on relationships. And he believes the days of specialist agencies are numbered, preferring an agency partner who can knit it all together for him.

And the leadership trait he most admires? He said generosity, but at other times he spoke about the importance of listening, strong behaviour in difficult situations, and having a laugh. And for someone who was at times vulnerable in his language, he says he’s not intimidated.

He invited us all to pop into JustEat towers and take a look at what they’re achieving. And having heard him speak so passionately about them, I think I’d like to.

Written by Mark Runacus, co-founder of Wax/On, non-executive Chair of the DMA (UK)Group, and Chair of advertising’s LGBTQ network PrideAM.