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Embracing innovation is the winning formula for crowned CEO of the Year A$100m+

This year’s aptly named CEO of the Year A$100m+, Winning Group’s CEO John Winning, places customer happiness at the heart of the company’s ongoing success.

The retail landscape has undergone a series of seismic shifts since John Winning became CEO of Winning Group in 2011. But one thing that has remained constant over that time is his commitment to delivering a world-class experience for his customers – an unwavering focus that has seen him named CEO of the Year A$100m+ at The CEO Magazine’s 2023 Executive of the Year Awards.

While the company was established in 1906 and has been in the family for four generations, Winning was initially reluctant to come on board, instead trying his hand at a number of different careers ranging from musician to door-to-door salesman. “I didn’t want to be forced into anything,” he tells The CEO Magazine.

But when he was finally convinced to join the business after being attacked by a dog on his door-to-door route, he quickly made his presence felt, adding Appliances Online to its stable of brands in 2005, when he was only 21 years old.

“I didn’t want to be forced into anything.”

Equipped with a laptop, a truck and a 1300 number, this timely entry to the world of ecommerce demonstrates an admirable foresight that has delivered on all fronts. And the customer-centric mission that he set out all those years ago has seen the company not only thrive, but has also firmly established Winning Group as an industry pioneer.

Under his watch as CEO, the Group has evolved to encompass logistics, hospitality, retail and more. In April 2022, it launched a new online furniture, bedding and appliance retailer, Andoo, drawing together products from a broad range of international and local brands.

executive of the year awards

Delivering the Goods

It’s an expansion that has been driven in no small part by its delivery of a superlative customer experience, according to Winning, and far from lip service, his claims are evidence-based.

The Group uses Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to measure its customers’ happiness and, as a result of putting the customer first at each point of the browsing, purchasing and delivery process, Appliances Online achieved a world-leading NPS of 80 for the month of June 2023, while Winning Appliances scored 73 in January.

“CHOICE members have also voted Appliances Online ‘Best online shop for electronics’ two years in a row and Winning Appliances ‘Best in-store shop for electronics’,” Winning says proudly.

“The business has a dedicated Customer Experience Team to find areas of improvement and to solve customer issues.”

But more than that, Winning sees his work as about more than simply creating a positive sentiment among its customers – he sees it as a force for good. For him, that means uplifting consumer expectations and enhancing their happiness.

“The business has a dedicated Customer Experience Team to find areas of improvement and to solve customer issues,” he says.

Addressing environmental concerns is therefore crucial, and Winning has placed sustainability at the core of a 10-year transformation strategy.

“Our sustainability strategy contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goals seven, eight, nine and 12, which has helped us to form our four main pillars: community, awareness and education, responsible sourcing and environment,” he explains.

john winning

Outside the Box

Innovation also forms a key pillar of this customer focus, with Appliances Online the only online retailer to offer free next-day delivery to 95 percent of the country, locally based 24/7 support as well as free removal and recycling of old products.

It was also the first appliance retailer to use product rows to educate customers on the environmental benefits of selecting an energy and water-efficient device.

Meanwhile, its shopping experience is based on neuroscientific principles around shopping and engagement.

“We have segmented our market based on neuroscience and then have done extensive research into understanding our core customer segment’s behaviors and emotions, to understand them on an unprecedented deeply human level,” Winning explains.

“I have always had the confidence that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything.”

This unprecedented effort to offer the best experience also extends to its team, with Winning working tirelessly to instill a sense of passion and purpose in each and every employee.

The company backs this up with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, along with measures such as its use of neuroscience-based app Heelix, which measures employee satisfaction, and the creation of the Winning Academy program to enhance skills and improve career enhancement.

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding and the Winning Group’s approach under its dynamic CEO has seen it thrive. Over the past two years, the Group has achieved growth of 40 percent, with Appliances Online delivering the lion’s share of its financial success, growing 50 percent to turn in sales of US$388 million.

It’s a great achievement, but Winning sees his happiness mission as a far bigger deal. “One of my greatest achievements is probably having a lot of people come into the Group, learn a whole bunch of skills, watching their careers grow throughout the business and giving them that pathway to do that quite quickly,” he says.

While his positive effect on the business is clear, he is quick to pay tribute to the generations before him, highlighting his father as an inspirational role model.

“My dad always said you can achieve anything that you set your mind to, and I remember that sticking in my brain at a young age,” he recalls.

“From that, I have always had the confidence that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything.”

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