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The Big Interview: Claire Davenport

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“Say thank you, give positive feedback - particularly when you’re running teams” says Vouchercodes.co.uk General Manager Claire Davenport. Fitting advice from the coupon site boss, given that the weather is sunny when I turn up to the company's striking Farringdon offices. 

To be greeted by Davenport is to be greeted by a positive and seemingly focused leader whose dry humour is reassuring. When asked whether she is personally good at saving money, (Vouchercodes.co.uk is a discount saving site working around the clock to deliver deals), she laughs, “I’m enthusiastic about saving money. I’m certainly enthusiastic about shopping.”

Her laidback attitude makes her easy to talk to and highlights how the company has maintained its down-to-earth ‘start-up mentality’, despite having large headquarters in both the UK and US:

“Having been a small start-up there are lots of perks – free breakfast, free lunch, free beer. There are trips and social evenings” Davenport explains.

Coming from large companies including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, the ex-investment banker is pleased to be combining the best of both worlds. Vouchercodes has “all the benefits of being a start-up and all the benefits of being part of a big company” she gushes.

Davenport’s first start-up experience was through Skype and no doubt influenced her decisions at her current company. Start-ups benefit from “people knowing each other well. They are able to make decisions and move on them quickly”, she nods knowingly, while adding that the discount saving site holds the “unusual and combined perks of both”.

The whole business will be heading to Austin, Texas for a conference next month. With the US so far ahead technologically, Vouchercodes is able to learn a lot from its colleagues across the pond. 

While the US side of the business is there to test the tech waters, competition is rife in the UK office. Introducing table tennis to the company’s kitchen last year, Davenport jokes, “When I started I was beating a few people. I won’t play now, they are all getting quite a lot better”. She adds, “They don’t like being beaten by their boss in front of their friends - engineers have a particular problem with this”.

Banter aside and Davenport is all about encouraging personal career development. “I’m glad I had the training I did early on” she stresses. Looking back she has learnt a lot:   

“I used to think that because it takes a lot to get feedback from me, they would think I had high standards, so it would really mean a lot when they got the good feedback – that isn’t how it works. People want you to recognise and acknowledge when they are doing a good job. Give them a shout out in the company meeting, go to their desk and tell them the good feedback - why wouldn’t you do that?”

She advises managers to listen to employee feedback, “Make sure there are 100 opinions rather than just a few” she says.

Opinions are considered from all angles as Davenport talks about how her Mother calls her whenever she saves money on a deal, “I told your Godmother about the Boden deal” she adds, imitating her mother‘s fervour.

The retailer’s vast database is key to analysing consumer trends, “We have an extremely rich database. We know a lot about our users - where they shop, their trends and habits”, Davenport comments, “We have a whole band of people whose sole job is to get all the best deals off the internet”.

Focusing on data pushes the company’s advisory expertise further. The business has been established as a key retail insider, with recent findings revealing publically that Brits spend £12.5bn per month buying treats for themselves. The mother of two even questions whether beard grooming kits will be the latest of these ‘treats’:

“Everyone seems to have a beard these days - not groomed but long in the middle. As far as I’m concerned we’re way past peak beard” she states – perhaps these too will make the pages of Vouchercodes in the near future.

Although data is important, Davenport is also keen to move with the times, “As technology evolves, we will make sure we evolve with it.” She sees the Vouchercodes app as a “very convenient companion for when you go shopping”.

Though I am persistent, Davenport does not disclose details of the retailer’s plans for the future. She “likes a challenge” and wants to “nail the mobile shopping experience here” but does not divulge further details.   

“I don’t know what we can say so far”, she comments, as she alludes to the business following the US’s tech savvy innovations. She talks about a day when the fridge can not only determine what it is missing but could apply vouchers to the reorder list:

“None of this stuff is in the plans yet but with such a fast changing market, we want to make sure we are really relevant as devices come up” she informs me. 

We end the interview by swapping our weekend plans. Claire intends to enjoy the company’s ‘beer ‘o’ clock’ policy, where staff can sit out on the building’s balcony with a glass of beer (or champagne as she adds). 

Published on Thursday 30 April by Jesus Garcia Martin

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