Retail, sales and customer services
learning from leaders ALDI

Sean Clancy, Store Operations Director, Aldi

Seán Clancy, Store Operations Director with Aldi, talks about how his career started and developed and the importance of accepting and dealing with responsibility.
The position of an Area Manager is one that comes with high levels of responsibility and therefore you need a strong knowledge of what the role entails.

I studied business studies in the University of Limerick, majoring in HR and minoring in entrepreneurship. I initially chose business as my degree programme as it was quite general and I liked the idea of not being tied to a specific area as upon completion of my leaving Cert, I was unsure as to what exactly I would like to do career wise. I knew that I wanted to do something business related and the business degree in the University of Limerick, coupled with the eight-month work placement as part of the degree programme in year 3, would give me an excellent starting point for my future career.

What was your first leadership position in your career and what did it teach you about yourself?

As mentioned earlier, as part of my degree programme I would complete an eightmonth work placement. I completed this with Aldi as an Assistant Store Manager. This was my first taste of leadership in a professional context. It was evident from the outset that there were a number of areas that I needed to develop if I wanted to be become an effective leader within the store. I feel that upon completion of the placement, I had developed key leadership skills such as effective communication and organisational skills. It was my first taste of leading a team of people and I really enjoyed this exposure! As I enjoyed the experience so much, I decided to pursue a leadership position upon graduation from college.

How and why did you start working with Aldi and how has your career developed since?

I began working for Aldi as an Industrial Placement student. The placement was spent working as an Assistant Store Manager in a busy Aldi store, aiding the Store Manager in the day-to-day running. Upon completion of the placement, I returned to college to complete my final year of the degree programme. I achieved my desired degree result and rejoined Aldi to begin my training to become an Area Manager. My training period was spilt between spending time within stores and with different Area Manager colleagues. I spent four years as an operational Area Manager, holding responsibility for stores in the Midlands and in Dublin during my time as an Area Manager. In April of 2015, I was promoted to the role of Store Operations Director in our Mitchelstown region. I currently hold responsibility for stores in the south and south-east of Ireland.

What was the first major challenge during your career with Aldi, how did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

I feel that one of the biggest challenges that any Area Manager would face is that of taking responsibility for your first area of stores; it certainly was mine! In saying that, it was definitely a challenge that I was ready for. I say this as at Aldi we place a lot of focus and energy on training all of our people to a very high standard, hence empowering all new people that start with our business to hit the ground running. This was my experience when first starting off with Aldi, both for my in-store and out-ofstore training. Therefore when it came to taking responsibility for my first area I felt ready despite the challenge that lay ahead!

What advice would you have for a graduate interested in a career with Aldi, and what skills can they develop to help them succeed?

I believe that it essential for any potential new starter to research the role in detail prior to applying for it. This is particularly true for the Area Manager position. The position of an Area Manager is one that comes with high levels of responsibility and therefore you need a strong knowledge of what the role entails.

How important is work/life balance and how do you deal with stressful situations in your job?

Work/life balance is vital, both from a personal and professional point of view. It is imperative that in a senior management position you recognise this for both your people and for yourself. As I said earlier, the Area Manager role carries a lot of responsibility and expectation with it. However, it is also a role that you can achieve an excellent work/life balance with. In the event of a challenging situation arising, I think it's important to take a step back from the situation, gather the facts and then make an informed decision. Although, I feel that prevention is usually the best way of dealing with challenging situations!