I guess like most of the country, one cannot be anything less than hugely impressed by the whole London Olympics experience, from the fantastic opening ceremony through to the brilliant athletes who delivered medals and world records, leaving us with memories of outstanding feats of endurance and dedication. When interviewed, all thank coaches, family, mentors and the sport associations who have helped them achieve their Olympic potential.
In many ways, the requirement for young people to have a support framework and to be surrounded by influential mentors to help achieve their potential applies equally to all walks of life and work.
I know I would not have been able to progress up the retail management ladder without a lot of help and guidance from a number of people who helped, cajoled, trained and developed me through those early days of management training.
I play golf once a week with one of those people who played a pivotal part in my development. His name is John Toal. Known to many in the trade as “JT”, I first met him when I was 16 years old and working for Gateway Foodmarkets - he was my new Regional Superintendent (great title!). Even today, more than 40 years later, he likes to remind me of the day he discovered me in a back stockroom looking like an “awkward gawky teenager” - his words not mine!
“Young people require a support framework and strong mentors”
Anyway, over the next 12 years he took me under his wing and trained, developed and inspired me to climb the management greasy pole to join him on the board of a major plc at the tender age of 29 years old.
JT was a former David Greig man and so much of my training was undertaken by ex-David Greig people, which was brilliant as they were second to none when it came to fresh foods. A particular gift he had when things went wrong, (and in work as in life they do), was the ability to put his hand on your shoulder and encourage you to dust yourself down, not look back, but just look forward and make sure you do not repeat your mistakes.
I know today that without his influence I would not have been able to enjoy the modest success I have had in my retail career (I just wish he would stop reminding me every time we play golf!). There are many in the retail trade today who will feel the same about people who have been instrumental in helping them achieve their potential.
In order to repay people like JT for giving us that help and guidance, it is incumbent on me and other experienced “old hands” to pass on to the next generation our knowledge, experiences and skills to help them have successful careers in retail.