Job swap gives teenager top job at John Lewis Norwich store

16-year-old Lee Sutton tries the scones made by Richard Marks in the John Lewis kitchens with David

16-year-old Lee Sutton tries the scones made by Richard Marks in the John Lewis kitchens with David Fox. Photo: Bill Smith

Climbing the greasy pole may seem like an insurmountable task when you are a part-time worker straight out of high school.

16-year-old Lee Sutton, centre, with the John Lewis steering group. From left: Tom Marrison, Daniell

16-year-old Lee Sutton, centre, with the John Lewis steering group. From left: Tom Marrison, Danielle Coates, Jennet Constantine and Joe Baker. Photo: Bill Smith

But teenager Lee Sutton has experienced what it is like to be handed an accelerated promotion just 10 months into the job – when he became head of branch at John Lewis, Norwich.

The 16-year-old took the helm as part of a top-level shake-up that saw senior managers working in the canteen and on the shop floor to underscore the values of National Employee Ownership Day.

The department store was one of many firms holding events across the country yesterday to promote employee-owned companies as strong economic business models.

And partners at John Lewis Norwich were keen to boost the profile of their employment structure, which gives them an equal share of the company profits at the end of each financial year.


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'Having the support of the partnership means even I could get the opportunity to run the store for a day – it has been an incredible opportunity' said Mr Sutton, who lives in Ditchingham, near Beccles.

'I had to get up early so I could check our trading figures, before giving a speech to the managers about the benefits of employee ownership.

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'I have also been speaking to specific section managers on how the trade has been going throughout the day – and offering advice on how they might improve.'

As well as Mr Sutton, members of staff from furnishing and textiles, womenswear, audio and television and the catering department were all handed roles on the branch's steering group to get a better understanding of top-level management.

Richard Marks, who will return to his role as branch manager today, said he hoped the job swap would generate ideas to improve the

business regionally – or even nationally.

'When we started thinking about National Employee Ownership Day we decided we wanted to come up with something to make the partners feel like they are working for a

different type of business,' said Mr Marks, who spent the day baking scones in the canteen, carrying out maintenance work and serving at the collection point.

'We thought of a barbecue and a free lunch, and then we came up with this idea of swapping roles to give everyone a wider understanding of the branch.

'I hope the people that signed up to the steering group have learned more about the business today,' he added. 'I feel that we might even be able to extend this and get some other job swaps happening in the

future.'

• Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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