A focus on leadership and personal development has helped Glasgow-based BDL Hotels to thrive following a change of direction in late 2008, says company Chairman Stuart McCaffer.
What leadership support have you received from Scottish Enterprise?
We initially undertook a strategy workshop to help us reshape the direction we wanted to take the company. Scottish Enterprise then worked with us on a review which included looking at staff capabilities, roles and responsibilities and skills gaps. This involved engaging our senior people below board level, talking to them and assessing their personal development needs and what direction they thought the company should go in. Since then a number of our staff have been on the Leadership for Growth course, which has helped their personal development and has really sparked ideas to improve the business.
Why did you think your staff would benefit from Leadership for Growth?
I’ve always been a great believer in people having some outside influences to help them develop. What I found interesting with Leadership for Growth was the various different aspects to the programme, which included a mix of theoretical input and experiential learning and networking; while some people might be expert in finance or marketing, they don’t necessarily have that broader strategic understanding, and the programme gives them that.
What were the particular skills gaps that you wanted to address?
When the funding world changed in late 2008, we had to react and change our model from running our own hotels to winning more third party management contracts. Up to that point we hadn’t really had to market or sell ourselves, so there was a real need to develop skills in that area.
One of the first people on the course came back and did a specific project on how we market ourselves and the difference between marketing and selling because we weren’t very clear on that.
What have been some of the key changes as a result of the course?
Following that project and a further workshop on marketing, we’ve changed our whole marketing approach and how we go out and sell ourselves, really trying to create some need on behalf of the buyer.
People returning from the course have also looked at how they structure their team’s personal development. So that’s created more autonomy within the teams for staff development.
What about personal impact?
When Stewart Campbell went on Leadership for Growth he was our CFO; he’s now our MD and his learning on the course certainly helped that progression. After the course, he was more particular about where he spent his time, embracing a concept from the course of focusing on the ‘highest and best’ things within the organisation.
So, there’s a sense of the course helping people to move up within the organisation?
Absolutely. Four of us founded the business, two have since retired, and this is the first time that somebody from the next tier down has been involved in running the business. There are four other directors supporting Stewart and I’m conscious that for most of them this is the first company they’ve been a director of so I’m keen that they get outside influences and development.
What has been the impact on staff retention? Are people seeing a clearer path for progression?
Through the review of our staff skills and competencies in 2010, we identified 14 people below director level that we really wanted to bring together as a group. We see these people as key going forward and progressing within the business and we wanted to make them feel more involved and improve retention. They are also involved in our annual strategic planning process. Of those 14 people, only one has left the company. One person has been promoted to the board and another has used his experiences from the course to move from finance into business development.
Where does leadership sit within the company?
It’s a case of spreading leadership throughout the organisation and giving people a climate where they can take responsibility and make key decisions.
As part of our strategic planning, we have a ‘Plan on a page’ which sets out seven key objectives in the business. This allows everybody to see where they contribute to those objectives and the development of the business.
Would you recommend Leadership for Growth?
Absolutely. We have sent a lot people on it and will continue to do so. It offers great breadth across the various aspects of business and the format of the course really ensures that people take responsibility for implementing what they have learnt.
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