Thistly Cross Cider Co Ltd
Luke's ScotGrad placement challenged him, sent him overseas to America, and in the end, resulted in an amazing promotion. Read the full story below.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Orkney and lived my early life up there before moving to Lancashire, England. I then returned to Scotland to study at the University of Stirling for a degree in International Politics.
At the end of my second year I took a sabbatical role at the Students' Union where I was elected Union President. This was a roller coaster of a job with highs and lows but it gave me experience of managing people and a portfolio of responsibilities. During my last year of University I grew tired of the standard under-appreciated bar job, and started my own business selling craft beer and cider for various different craft breweries. Thistly Cross Cider were so impressed that I was successful in being appointed as the company's first International Sales Executive as part of the ScotGrad programme, taking on their International Customers.
What have you learned during your placement?
This was my first graduate appointment after university, so it was pretty nerve racking to try and get it right. Initially, like any new job, it was difficult to find my place and define what it is I do. Working for smaller businesses can actually make this more difficult, especially when there are few employees to begin with! It can feel very much like being thrown in at the deep end to swim or sink. But I learned that the best way to deal with this was to take control of any situation you are dropped in to, and work with it in your own terms. (But, this doesn't mean you don't ask for advice when you need it.)
In your opinion, what kind of impact has your role had on the company?
Because of the scale of Thistly Cross' operations and the amount of customers we have abroad, it was a challenge to visit everyone and tend to everyone else's needs. I was sent out to different countries worldwide to visit customers, understand their markets, and work out any knots and kinks. I spent time helping others in the company try and understand what these customers may see as problems, and how we can work to streamline each route to market.
The largest impact I think I've had is helping in a huge 250% increase in our export sales. I mainly look after our largest export customer, which is the USA. Since starting at Thistly Cross I have visited the states and our customers out there 4 times! This allowed me to learn and understand the market as well as sell the product directly to customers on the front line, to build up a fan base. A key factor in the increase was being able to locate and use a keg provider, which has allowed Thistly Cross to greatly expand volume sales across the USA.
What did you think of the ScotGrad Residential Course?
I have to be honest - initially when I was told that I was being sent to the residential course I was reluctant to believe it might be helpful, as it didn't seem role specific.
However, after the first couple of sessions, I really felt the value of what was going on. It gave me time to reflect on the extremely busy role I had carved out during my time at Thistly and reflect on my achievements there. I even got invited to talk and teach some sales training techniques. This showed that the ScotGrad team also had appreciation for everyone's abilities in the room. It was a nice break from the office that allowed me to go back with a refreshed outlook.
Any advice for other graduates?
It sounds like a cliché but a lot about finding a graduate job can be "Not what you know, but Who you know". Making contacts and showing off your ability to innovate can really pay off. I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't decide to go and start my own business, and being recognised by others was a great way to make contacts who can make a difference.
What has come out of your placement?
In April 2015, which was the 10th month of my ScotGrad placement at Thistly Cross, I was promoted to Export Manager. Showing my abilities to lead, innovate, and think on my feet in my role allowed my directors to see my potential to go much further. I now have an amazing new position, with plenty of benefits, where I even have my own team of sales executives which I help to manage alongside our directors.
It just goes to show how quickly graduates can climb the ladder after graduating, and I can assure you I can't wait to get stuck into the future!