Al Conroy is owner of Freeze Pro Shop, an Edinburgh based independent retailer that provides outdoor sportswear, specialising in ski-ing, snowboarding, and surfing.
Al and his team are ski-ing and snowboarding enthusiasts, and pride themselves on providing not only high quality products tested by industry experts, but also an unrivalled quality of customer service – based upon their passion and experience of the industry. Al has recently joined Business Mentoring and is being mentored by Jamie Grant (shown above), head of corporate banking at Barclays Bank. Jamie has worked in banking and accountancy for almost 20 years, in areas including risk consultancy and property & project finance. The Mentoring relationship between Al and Jamie has only just begun, but Al is enjoying the experience and has already begun to achieve some of the personal objectives he set out going in to the process. Scottish Chambers of Commerce spoke with Al to obtain his thoughts on Mentoring so far;
Why did you join Mentoring?
“We were already part of the Scottish Enterprise Account Management programme and we were directed towards mentoring by one of their advisors.”
What did you hope to get out of mentoring?
“We wanted to look at prioritising the opportunities we’ve seen, ie. What is the best strategy for the business? What should be our long term development plan? When is the right time to expand the team? Cashflow is also always a pressure for a business like ours that experiences a very seasonal sales cycle, so we wanted to look at debt financing options.”
How has the mentoring relationship worked?
“We had an initial meeting then we caught up again a few weeks ago. Jamie is a fairly young guy but very experienced, and we hit it off straight away. He`ll be coming along to one of our events now, which is great.”
Have you worked on any specific issues?
“Jamie advised us to be careful about adding costs, we needed to think about what employees would actually bring to us as added value to the business.”
How else has Mentoring benefited the business so far?
“Another value I was hoping to get from Mentoring was to share experiences and challenges with other like-minded people. I was also very keen to get introduced to some contacts that could help the business and to generally build up a network of contacts. Already Jamie has helped us with that, we’ve been introduced to the owner of a really successful, innovative Scottish business in the same industry, we’re hoping this will open even more doors.”
What do you feel works best about Mentoring?
“It’s a great thing for someone to come in from afar and look at your business with a new set of eyes.”
Would you recommend mentoring to other businesses?
“Definitely, Mentoring is a very personal thing and it’s important to get it right, we feel that has happened in our case.”