Aarish Shah, founder of EmergeONE

In our regular series, industry big wigs take us back to their first jobs


Hi, Aarish! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Aarish and I’m the founder of EmergeONE, a business advisory providing finance ops services to start ups and growth ventures.

What was your first McJob?

Working at McDonald’s at Brent Cross shopping centre, age 16, in the summer of 1995, after my GCSEs, when the done thing was to look for a summer job. I remember wander around and picking up applications from clothes and shoe stores, walking into McDonald’s, and picking up an application. The McDonald’s in Brent Cross was one of the busiest in the UK, so they took me on pretty quickly.

What did you have to do?

I think I spent one shift on the grill, but after that, I spent all my time on the till. These days, everything at McDonald’s is semi-automated with self-serve screens and a ticket system. But back then, it was high volume, high throughput. There were no food courts, so your only choice was to grab to sarnie from M&S or come into McDonald’s. We were slammed. Every till was full, and the queues were out of the door. I was good at mental maths and could take £300 an hour when my colleagues were only taking £100 — £150.

How long did you work there for?

At least a couple of months over the summer. The worst thing was weaning myself off the free McDonald’s food when I left!

What skills did you learn that you still use now?

I had one customer — I think German — who wanted to pay with a credit card that we didn’t take — I suspect AmEx — who got really angry that we wouldn’t take his card. I remember my supervisor trying to calm the situation down, which was my first real lesson in customer service. However angry the customer was with me, it wasn’t my job to argue. It was my job just to let him know what we could and couldn’t do, as calmly as possible. So I certainly learned the importance of customer service, which is so important in consumer retail. I was returning an item at a shop last weekend, and the person on the till was really snarky. I thought: “I’d never have been like that at McDonald’s!”

Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?

No. I was asked whether I wanted to drop out of school and go through the management training program. People have different paths in life and my path was to do my A Levels and head off to university. But that sort of offer gives a real opportunity to progress in a real world environment for people who don’t have the desire or opportunity to go to university.

Why is alumni so important?

I’ve built my career around relationships and serendipity. Serendipity means putting yourself out there with no expectations and seeing what happens. In any organisation, you have the chance to meet brilliant people and create connections. So the relationships you build may well lead to something amazing down the track. Thinking about alumni broadens your ability to create value in the future.

What would happen if you went back and worked on the tills at McDonald’s?

I think I would enjoy getting my hands dirty again. It’s a very hands on, on your feet role for which you have to be very present, which very different from what I do today.

If you could go back in time to, what of one bit of advice would you give yourself?

No job or opportunity is too small. Learn from everyone around you, keep your mind open, and enjoy the process.




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