The IOEE’s member base is incredibly diverse, with people from all walks of life signed-up to enjoy the privilege, services and benefits associated with it. To let you know just how broad a spectrum of people we work with and what membership represents to them as individuals, we’ve created Spotlight on… which, every month, introduces you to an IOEE member with an interesting story to tell. This month the spotlight is on Andrew Bird, a full IOEE member who runs GraniteMandC, a mentoring and coaching business, in Port Talbot.
Andrew has an extremely varied work history. Having left his native Wales in the mid-1980s aged 18, Andrew found work as a civil servant in London. He joined the Prison Service in 1989, working in Brixton Jail as a prison officer for three years and at Full Sutton Prison in Yorkshire for a period too. For Andrew, these jobs seemed almost inevitable, as he explains:
“We’ve always had uniformed jobs in my family, in the army, the police or whatever. My brother joined the Metropolitan Police Service and I joined the Prison Service. I think it was always destined to happen – I just didn’t know when!”
However, it was while working at Full Sutton that the idea of an entrepreneurial future first began to appeal to Andrew and he soon knew he wouldn’t be in uniform for long.
“My wife was working as a mobile hairdresser and we had two small kids at the time. We saw an opportunity and a niche for a sunbed hire business. The idea was to take the sunbeds directly to people’s homes. Within six months of starting our sunbed round we were actually having sunbeds made for us, so it really took off. That was 18 years ago now and my first time working for myself. I haven’t looked back.”
Like many IOEE members, for Andrew entrepreneurial spirit is a core part of who he is. The type of business, where it’s based and its size are almost secondary to the simple fact of being an entrepreneur, spotting the right gap in the market and simply being willing to give it a go on your own. Andrew was introduced to the IOEE some years ago through our very successful Meet a Mentor events. He attended a Cardiff Meet a Mentor and signed up on the spot because the idea of accessing specialised support designed for entrepreneurs immediately appealed to him. He says:
“All my wife’s family have an history of self-employment but I was like a baby coming to it with no experience. When I joined the IOEE I loved the fact that the organisation really celebrates and supports people who’ve got it in their blood to go it alone.”
Fast-forward a few years and the business Andrew currently runs, GraniteMandC, is also focused on helping the entrepreneurial owners and managers of a diverse set of businesses achieve their potential for success. Working closely with Business Wales, GraniteMandC provides a wide array of services to those just starting out on the enterprise journey. Unusually, as well as providing high quality mentoring and coaching services, Andrew also brings some of his security and investigative background to the business with a bespoke private investigation service. He explains more:
“If a business owner is having issues with staff, as an accredited life coach I can work with individuals to get to the crux of the matter and hopefully resolve it. Or, if a business owner feels that employees are behaving in an unacceptable way, for example taking illicit substances, I can carry out professional surveillance on their behalf.”
GraniteMandC’s track record in this business area is exceptional and, in fact, every case Andrew has undertaken has been resolved amicably with no need for law enforcement’s involvement or for dismissals. However, the main thrust of Andrew’s daily work is about giving local SMEs the tools they need to fine-tune their cash flow, their marketing, their core products and all other key business areas, as he says:
“My business is for start-ups or for guys who’ve been going for one or two years and perhaps hit a wall. I help start-ups to begin from a good position and I encourage and enable older enterprises to explore new directions.”
For this entrepreneur the IOEE has been a guiding force, somewhere to turn to for support and a unique shorthand stamp of business approval.
“Through my IOEE membership I’ve had some great referrals and met some brilliant contacts. I’m always recommending that people join the IOEE as members or affiliated members. It’s amazing the credibility membership gives you when you’re out and about meeting new clients, networking and drumming up fresh business. If anyone asks me, I say go for it!”