Start-ups urged to embrace employee entrepreneurialism

Start-ups have been urged to encourage career progression among entrepreneurial staff, in the wake of Woolworths’ appointment of a CEO who was once a shelf-stacker at the company.


Martin Nally, founder of recruitment firm hranywhere, says the growth of technology has seen a shift in the way many businesses operate, opening up opportunities for employees to take on more creative roles.


“If you’d said five years ago that you were hoping to be an iPhone app developer or work for Twitter, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about,” Nally says.


“The growth of technology and more efficient processes will create greater opportunities, including opportunities for people to embrace their creative flair and tackle challenges.”


“I don’t think it’s generational – I think a proportion of the population will always be wired that way.”


“However, I think people are seeking a greater degree of autonomy now; they’re not satisfied if they’re sitting in an office reporting to someone.”


Nally’s comments come in light of an announcement by supermarket giant Woolworths that outgoing chief executive Michael Luscombe will be replaced by 49-year-old Grant O’Brien, who started his Woolworths career as a shelf-stacker.


After leaving school in Year 10 to work as an apprentice electrician, O’Brien started doing night-fill at Woolworths while studying accountancy in 1986.


He then partially completed an MBA at Melbourne’s Monash University and finished an advanced management studies course at Harvard University in the United States.


In 2006, O’Brien was appointed Woolworths Liquor general manager. By 2008, he was general manager of new business development, where he oversaw the home improvements decision.


He returned to supermarkets in his latest role as chief operating officer in 2010, before being promoted to chief executive.


Similarly, Domino’s Pizza boss Don Meij commenced his career as a delivery driver for Silvio’s Dial-a-Pizza in 1987.


He became a Domino’s Pizza franchisee in 1996 and built up a network of 17 stores, before vending his stores into Domino’s Pizza to become chief operating officer, and taking the lead as chief executive in 2002.


Nally says while employees are inclined to view large multilayered companies as more promising with regard to career progression, small organisations can offer similar opportunities.


In addition to internal training, Nally says exposing staff to multiple aspects of the business and enabling them to work outside of the office will not only elevate staff but entice them to stay with the company.


Nally says start-ups have an opportunity to grant their staff more autonomy and creativity than larger companies, particularly in relation to technology as it lends itself to innovation.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.