SRM Business Partner at Virgin Money, Craig Townsend is responsible for supporting Supplier Relationship Managers (SRMs) throughout the bank who collectively manage the relationship with over 1200 suppliers including facilities companies, IT and marketing firms, to name but a few. The support takes many forms including training and communicating best-practice, and seeking out new techniques and technologies aimed at enabling efficient and value-adding activities.
Virgin Money offers savings, mortgages, credit cards, current accounts, currency services, pensions, investments and protection products to customers across the UK. A wholly-owned subsidiary of CYBG Group, in 2009 the business launched the UK’s largest not -for -profit online fundraising website Virgin Money Giving, which since its launch has resulted in over £660 million being donated to charities.
New to the Captured programme, Craig first heard about the course from a previous participant and was delighted to be given the opportunity to mentor Martin Sawyer, owner of office products company, Laser-Ex.
Craig Townsend, SRM Business Partner at Virgin Money said;
“Having read the case studies of the many businesses that had already taken part in Captured, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. As well as being a great opportunity to get to know the business community better, I knew it would also help me build my network and improve my understanding of the challenges faced by small companies.”
“It’s important as an organisation that we listen and learn from other businesses so that we understand how we can support them. Having just completed a coaching skills course, the Captured programme was also a good excuse to put that learning into practice!”
Based in Newcastle, owner of office products company Laser-Ex, Martin Sawyer founded the business back in 2005 selling mainly laser toner cartridges. Fourteen years on they employ around 8 employees, supplying anything for the office including workwear, furniture and stationary.
Martin was keen to use his time with Craig to concentrate on a number of challenges facing the business. Focus areas included recruitment and retention of staff, growing the profitability of the business and diversifying into higher margin product and service ranges including office furniture and design.
“I was very impressed by Martin, he really understood his business inside out. My role was very much to act as a sounding board, allowing him to articulate his challenges and help him prioritise them. A lot of those challenges were interlinked with each other so by tackling one area, he was then able to address others too. We focused on looking for the enablers in the list that if resolved would help him settle some of the other issues.”
“For example, Martin wanted to attract more customers from a particular market segment, increase spend per order, free-up the sales team to spend more time growing business from identified customers and moving away from competing directly on price with large players like Amazon. We identified that an enabler to all of these could be to refresh how the company was positioning itself in terms of marketing and advertising. A new strategy in this area could help Martin attract more of the customers he was looking for, promote the business based on the services it offered, rather than price, and free up the sales team to manage and build their own relationships with potential customers.
A real USP of Laser-Ex comes from the relationships they hold with their supply chain of furniture designers and manufacturers who partner closely with the business to deliver a superior and holistic service. Attending customer pitches, promoting the products and answering questions about design and specifications, it is certainly a collaboration that is paying dividends, helping to support Laser-Ex’s growth plans and giving them a competitive edge in the market.
“The Captured programme has been a great thing to be part of. At first, I’ll be honest, I was worried that I may not have as much to offer as others might in a mentor capacity but that certainly wasn’t the case. We all have different experiences and insights we can bring to the table. What I’ve learnt is how much the small businesses involved really appreciate the challenge and fresh perspective another person brings.”
“The programme has also been beneficial in enhancing my own role at Virgin Money, helping me gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing our supply chain of small businesses. More generally, the process has also reinforced the importance of working closely with suppliers and the mutual benefits that can bring. It’s all about collaboration really, how business can work together and help each other in the process.”
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of the programme and developing relationships with Newcastle University. Supporting small business and the community is high on Virgin Money’s agenda and both myself and several other colleagues have already expressed an interest to support Captured once again this year.”