Emma FitzGerald, Vice President, Shell Global Retail Network, interview for WorkPlace Now

Emma FitzGerald became Vice President of the Shell Global Retail Network 18 months ago. Since then her focus has been on developing partnerships that deliver strategic value for both Shell and its business partners.

In March 2011, Emma took Shell’s relationship with Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions (GWS) to its second generation with a five year agreement that covers more than 12,000 Shell Retail petrol stations in EMEA, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, serving more than one billion people annually. In October 2011, the relationship was expanded further to cover nearly 400 Shell Retail sites in the Sultanate of Oman.

Emma took the time to speak to WorkPlace Now about her thoughts on using a joint outcome-based approach to building mutually beneficial partnerships which deliver health and safety as the foundation and unlocks shareholder value for both partners.

How has the GWS/Shell partnership progressed?
We’ve been in the relationship for six years and a critical aspect of that journey has been to learn how each other operates in order to build a working relationship which delivers operational efficiency for our sites. My challenge coming into the role 18 months ago was to take the relationship to the next level. It’s about delivering the maximum value from the partnership by challenging ourselves to continually improve and find new sources of value to target together. In addition I expect Johnson Controls to work with our other key service providers in the fields of real estate management, construction and environmental services to create a more cohesive platform to deliver integrated value to Shell.

How do you create value?
Emma FitzGerald, Vice President Shell Global Retail Network
Historically, we focussed on optimizing individual supplier relationships, such as facilities management (FM), real estate and construction. Now we are taking a more holistic, joined-up approach to all suppliers and partners in order to add value across the entire lifecycle of the retail site.

A key focus for us is now to reduce the “cycle time” from identifying a plot of land for a new site through to the day it opens for business. Every day we can take off the cycle time means that customers can experience our offer earlier and we create tangible value for the Shell business. Once a site is open, we also want to deliver the best return on investment from our assets. This means that we need to invest in the right assets from the start and proactively prevent equipment from breaking down. If it does go wrong we need to fix it right first time, always with the customer experience and our business outcome in mind.

We expect Johnson Controls to contribute to this lifecycle approach through delivering maximum value through taking a more integrated view of the total cost of ownership. They also have an important role to play in ensuring that the customer refuelling experience is optimised from day one and we minimise any disruptions to this experience once the site is up and running. Another example of where they can add value is to look at the full range of other technologies and competencies they can bring to the table. It’s my job to deliver the best possible customer refuelling experience in the industry. Basic operational excellence is a given from Johnson Controls - we want to see how its other technologies and skills can enhance the customer experience and drive value for the business.

If you could travel back in time to the start of the global contract, what would you tell yourself?
The single biggest lesson which has been consistently reinforced is that you need to have a joint, outcome-based approached. You have to be very clear on what the destination is, have the right structure in place and, crucially, the right people in place who are aligned to that outcome. The absolute key to both current and future success is the calibre of the people involved in leading the Shell/Johnson Controls account both on a global and market level.
What are you looking for from a partner?
From a Shell perspective, we are looking for relationship managers with a strategic mindset, a passion for health and safety, security and the environment (HSSE), as well as the personal leadership skills to drive joint innovation to create shared value at all levels of the account.

Shell has had to learn to trust and let go of activities we are asking the partner to take responsibility for, while maintaining control of the outcome, namely the customer experience at site. Looking forward, it’s truly about innovation to identify new sources of value and a mindset to really exploit each other’s strengths. The key to that is sharing ideas and a willingness to find ways to implement them – working purely from a prescriptive scorecard approach, just won’t get us where we want to be. Lastly, I would say to keep it simple, and prioritize those actions that will deliver the greatest impact for both partners.
How has the relationship with GWS evolved?
The Shell retail business currently comprises 44,000 sites that serving   10 million customers a day. To date, Johnson Controls has been focussed on the company-owned network of retailers of 11,000 sites. As we move into the second generation of the partnership we have developed a joint five year roadmap that underpins all our work together and identifies the areas of activity to focus on to drive the most value for both parties during the lifetime of the agreement. Part of this work is to look at opportunities for Johnson Controls to work with some of our other channel partners i.e. such as our dealers, or our wholesaler network in the US as well.

To be clear – the core set of operational activities supporting the Shell-owned network are unchanged and we constantly look for ways to continuously improve the service we deliver to our customers through this channel. The five-year roadmap is an opportunity to look at how Johnson Controls can support the Shell Retail business as a whole. For example, through providing services to Shell’s other channels, working with our real estate and construction and environmental services partners in a more integrated way to improve return on our investment in our retail network, and identifying ways to improve the customer experience on site.
How does Shell Retail help deliver shareholder value?
Our vision is to provide the highest quality fuels and the best experience in the industry for our customers. We also take our role as “the shop window” for the Shell brand very seriously. It’s Johnson Controls’ role to help us to innovate to keep improving that customer experience so that we retain and grow our customer base and continue to deliver value for our shareholders. Central to improving the customer experience will be an increased focus on innovation to meet evolving customer needs and to strengthen the loyalty offer. The latter will be particularly important given the greater proportion of fuel volume which will be managed by our dealers and wholesalers i.e. not controlled directly by Shell over the next five years. To achieve this vision we need to exceed customers’ needs and Facilities Management has an essential role to play. Many of the future customer differentiators such as loyalty, retail partnerships and IT solutions will not come from Shell’s core skill set. These differentiators will help us to deliver maximum profitability, which will support the wider business as it expands into new emerging markets.
What particular considerations are there for the oil & gas market?
Safety is the single most important issue in our minds. Our goal is zero accidents and we need to be confident that everyone will go home safely at night. We have 10 million customers and 30,000 contractors on Shell Retail sites every day and we have a responsibility to every one of those people. Personally I still have chronic unease that the key HSSE messages and controls we use to help keep the worker at site safe are still not consistently applied and owned. You can never be complacent and you can never declare victory in this area. I expect strong leadership at all levels of the Johnsons Controls account to bring this alive more explicitly at the site level. That’s why initiatives like our new Safety Passport Scheme are important. It will ensure that every contractor that walks onto any Shell site anywhere in the world has undertaken HSSE training and can provide a physical “passport” to show that they have done it. It’s an area where we must improve our performance.
What advice would you give to someone just thinking about going down the outsourcing route?
The most important thing is to understand the relative strengths of the two organizations - the analogy of a marriage is a good one. The most important thing is to deliberately create the time to have a strategic conversation. There’s always a balance between operations and strategy, but you need to stand back and find new ways of creating value together. To do that you need a partnership approach from day one rather than starting with a supplier/client relationship.

Emma is a graduate of Oxford University and Manchester Business School. In her spare time she enjoys photography, hill walking and mentoring technology start-up companies. Emma has held a number of senior positions in Strategy and Operations at Shell during her 19-year career at the company.