SWA Conference: Teaching tomorrow’s wholesalers that risk is good

Training and the importance of mentoring will form a key strand of the Scottish Wholesale Association’s (SWA) focus over the next year, delegates at this year’s Scottish Wholesale conference, held last week, were told.  

Last year’s event saw the launch of what has been branded “a ground breaking mentoring scheme” with the first four “mentees” officially joining the programme earlier this year.  They are: Fiona MacFarlane from Forteith Foodservice; Stuart Harrison from JW Filshill; Paul Dickson from Booker and Waqas Khawaja from United Wholesale (Scotland).

George Benson (pictured), who has just stepped down as SWA president after three years guiding the Association, said: “Last year, the SWA Council recognised the need to motivate and develop our emerging talent within our member organisations, working in the key areas of buying, sales development and management. From that, our Mentoring Trust was born.

“The Trust will provide unique development opportunities for employees of SWA member organisations who have a drive for ambition within the industry, with the programme structured to fit in around business needs; mentoring is happening ‘on the job’ so our mentees are realising their own capability and potential – as well as having the support of an expert to encourage growth.”

Participants were selected through an application process that was endorsed by their line managers with individuals then matched to appropriate mentors. “Since then, they have all have had one-to-one sessions, with structured goals and objectives set. Unlimited telephone support has allowed for on-the-spot issues or concerns to be dealt with,” said Benson.

Risk, he added, was an early issue to emerge from the scheme: “One of the key learnings that came out of the mentees’ training day was their total aversion to risk. This is completely understandable considering their job profiles, But what would happen in their day-to-day routine if they started to take a bit of risk?

“It is something we frequently initiate personally in all aspects of our lives, in order that we may develop and make changes for ourselves. We take risks with the intention of achieving positive gains, because we see a stronger potential for opportunity rather than for failure. So imagine the possible positive gains for the business?

“It is a specific intention of our Mentoring Programme to encourage our mentees to learn the benefits of risk-taking with the full support of their mentors and, crucially, their line managers. I believe it should be the role of all senior managers to understand and clearly articulate the rationale for positive risk-taking, to instil the necessary confidence in staff to take carefully considered risks in pursuit of beneficial outcomes for the business.”

“Wholesaling is not a high-tech, sexy industry,” Benson continued. “Some might say it’s not even cutting-edge, but as a business we need to be ‘on trend’ – and by mentoring and training our emerging talent we might just be able to hold on to them long-term, and create the trust with our suppliers that will give us a competitive advantage.”

Three places are currently available on the programme and wholesalers are invited to encourage suitable employees to apply. The SWA is also keen to hear from prospective mentors.

 www.scottishwholesale.co.uk

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