Interview with James Davidson, CEO of

By Matt Dallisson, 08/03/2018

James Davidson is Co Founder of the challenger brand, which he started just 3 years ago with Graham Bosher, Founder of Graze, and LOVEFiLM. Their web based subscription service for dog owners calculates the nutritional needs of each individual pet, then crafts a unique tailor-made food blend to match them. Think ‘personalised meal-planning for pets’.

Add personalised packaging that incorporates the pet’s name with free speedy delivery, and it’s easy to see why already has thousands of happy customers, has won awards, is disrupting the industry, and has big plans for the future…

View more of the interview with James here

What’s the most important skill set for successful leaders to develop? What leadership characteristics do you look for when you are recruiting?

“Well leadership in a challenger brand is such an incredibly broad subject and I think it’s so situational dependent on the context in which that leadership is required. At Tails, the kind of leadership we require is really the ability to engage people. Whether it’s engaging our customers through the way we communicate to them or engaging our team behind the scenes doing the best thing for our customers.

When I’m trying to look for that characteristic in people there are three things that I’m typically looking for.

The first is their sense of purpose and desire to leave a lasting and positive impact, a legacy. And I’ll often ask them how they did that in their last job – what’s the impact of which they’re most proud of which has left the most lasting positive impact.

The second thing that I look for is their level of self-awareness and empathy. Do they understand themselves and who they are and can they build out from that and understand other people and how other people think and what motivates and drives them? So the question I’ll ask there is describe the best leader you’ve ever followed, describe their characteristics and also tell me how you match up to those characteristics, where you think you’re strong and less strong.

The third thing is how they deal with failure. Do they take accountability for failure and are they resilient to failure? So I’ll ask them about the time when they had to deal with failure and depending on the type of answer they give, and especially how they frame the answer, it gives a real insight into that person’s sense of personal accountability which is critically important if you expect people to follow you.”

If you were to start from nothing with what you know now, what would you have sought more help with?

“Going back and thinking what I would do differently with what I know now actually isn’t something that I like to think about very much because I’ve only learned what I’ve learned now by the experience of the mistakes that I made, so I wouldn’t actually change anything.

If there was one thing that I would go back and give myself as advice then I think it would be to try to understand my own personality type and preferences more deeply at an earlier stage in my career, because I think by doing that it’s easier to understand my own behaviour and what’s driving it and then be more comfortable with that which has allowed me, over time, to become more natural and authentic in the way that I lead which helps to be more effective as a leader.”

Which business achievement are you most proud of and why?

“The thing I’m most proud of happened nearly three years ago when we just launched this challenger brand and business. It looked like it wouldn’t work, there was a strong movement to close the business and wind things up and call it a day and I felt that the business could really work. The management team was with me on that and we worked incredibly hard to prove just enough, to keep the business going which was ultimately successful and now we’ve got tens of thousands of happy customers – so that makes me feel very proud of what we’ve achieved.”

View more of the interview with James here

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You might also enjoy another article I’ve published on Linkedin called ‘What’s your story?’ which explores how the rules of engagement for leadership talent have changed…

By Matthew Dallisson, who advises people to find, attract and keep great leaders with insights drawn from over a decade in executive search and leadership consulting.