Q&A with OPITO Global 2022 Speaker, Nick Fry

Nick Fry, Non-Executive Chairman of McLaren Applied and former CEO of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team

Having worked in the fast-paced world of motorsport since 2002, Nick's insights into Formula One provides a rare perception into change management, risk innovation and strategic leadership.

We recently spoke to Nick and asked him a few questions about his career, inspirations and his outlook on the future of the business world. He had some really interesting insights to share.

  • You have been instrumental in transforming several businesses with incredible outcomes – what is the key to your success?

Get the best people, give them the tools necessary to deliver, agree clear objectives, accountability and expectation. Provide as much support to the team as you can and accept that if you expect extraordinary performance then mistakes will occur. Have a detailed action plan before and evolve a ‘no blame’ culture. Communicate clearly and frequently.

  • What lessons do you think businesses can learn from the competitive world of F1?

That being process driven and fast moving and entrepreneurial are compatible objectives. If you have a great team anything is possible.

  • What makes a business strategy so successful – is it the people or the process?

It’s about the people first. Everyone says ‘people are our most important asset’ but few translate that into action. Humans will believe the story for a while but ultimately it needs to be supported by hard evidence. Good processes will handle 95% of the daily requirements automatically leaving 5% for focused attention - that’s the fun bit.

  • You were instrumental in implementing a crisis management solution to a business on the verge of collapse, can you share some insights on your strategy and highlight any challenges you faced?

It’s all about belief and a culture of ‘we are all in this together and we either fail or succeed as one’. Everyone needs to their own job well but also help everyone else do a great job. Success comes in small steps and each positive step needs to be shared - communicate honestly and frequently. Acknowledge set backs and communicate why things are going to get better - credibly.

  • Can you share the best piece of advice you have been given or something you would say to your younger self starting out in business?

Don’t peak too early - this is a marathon not a 100m sprint. Take more risks. The question is ‘if this all goes wrong can I live with the consequences?’.

  • What has been your career highlight and career low to date?

There were some pretty dark days in 2006/7 when the F1 team was under huge pressure on the track. A lot of great work and investment was happening behind the scenes but the results would not be seen for several years. Just keeping going was tough. I have been fortunate enough to have lots of highlights but 1st and 2nd in the Monaco Grand Prix in 2009 beating Ferrari into 3rd place was very special! Having the honour to work with Michael Schumacher was another.

  • What inspires you?

Working with great people, winning and having fun. If it’s not fun then find something else.

  • What is your outlook on the future of the business world?

We have barely scratched the surface of understanding technology, science and the universe. If you start with the belief that people working together can achieve great things then it probably will happen.

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