Name: Mathew Grey
Degree: Business Studies, Leeds Met
Started in current role: April 2012
Current role: Export Sales Director
Business: CQR Fire and Security www.cqr.co.uk
Current activities: There are three key parts to my role; managing my own P&L and supporting the wider business in my director capacity. My team is composed of two customer account managers and an administrator. I also get involved in lots of other areas of the business, such as marketing or product design. More recently I have started to focus on international business development in big growth markets for example UAE and Hong Kong.
Potted career history: After doing a placement as part of my degree I graduated in 2008, deferring an offer on a graduate scheme for a year in order to travel and run a small business with a friend. In September 2009 I joined a large retail bank graduate scheme which had four six month placements in different areas of the business. But like a number of my peers I found it just wasn’t for me. I felt like a small cog in a big machine. The boundaries, hierarchy and strict adherence to processes seemed to smother and crush my entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. I saw a lot of graduates become moulded into a corporate profile when in my opinion they would be better suited to a small business.
Why did you want to move to your current business? I was attracted to the clear accountability, the opportunity to manage people, travelling globally and owning my own P&L. I could also see that I would be able to have a real impact quickly and that my opinion would be heard and acted upon rather than decisions being 4, 5 or 6 people removed from me.
What has the business got from you? Energy! The business had been fairly static for a couple of years. I feel I have refreshed and pushed it forward, not least by completely changing our marketing approach. Like many graduates I think I also bring the ability to think laterally, challenge, question and agitate in order to drive innovation. On the technology side I am familiar with more effective and modern ways of moving information and communicating.
What’s the most exciting thing you've done? It’s really difficult to pick just one thing. But I do remember a customer presentation just two weeks in the job where I had to sell the brand and existing range to ten customers! More generally I find the international travel element of my role very exciting. Last week I went to Cyprus to meet customers and clients, this week I have a conference in Ireland with a member of my team, next week I’m in Russia for 4 days, then the Netherlands for our biggest exhibition of the year.
How has this helped with your long term career prospects? Ultimately I want to own my own business. This experience has given me broad operational experience of growing a business, managing people, systems, processes and product development. I really get to be involved and see the whole business process from end to end - from ordering in China through to the customer.
Why would you recommend working in an SME to other graduates? A graduate is a much more costly resource to a small business, as such you tend to be invested in. The Managing Director of the business will likely know you by name and you will be pushed to deliver with real accountability and responsibility from day one. What you do will have real meaning and an impact and you will see the difference your contributions are making. You will be less protected and therefore able to move up the learning curve very quickly. Of course all of this also comes with greater scrutiny and stress, it’s not easy and you are expected to work hard but it will keep you active and constantly challenged. It's for the brave.