Mentoring & Development

Ron has a profound interest in the personal and professional development of colleagues and associates reflected in:

  • supporting Chair / CEOs/ MDs as a trusted advisor and sounding board;
  • the creation of a progressive programme to enable his young management team to develop into broader, more fulfilling roles;
  • the development of in-house financial awareness courses designed to educate senior staff (of all disciplines) in the key aspects of financial and business management;
  • the design and facilitation of board workshops focussed on strategy and strategy enablement, including mitigating cultural conflict;
  • managing week long professional training courses and lecturing Strathclyde University Business School students;
  • the use of projects, secondments and other initiatives to develop capability and confidence.

Isle of Harris Distillers – from concept to commercialisation: launch and beyond

Isle of Harris Distillers was conceived as a means of providing direct employment and economic stimulus to an island badly in need of economic regeneration.  The 4 plus year journey from concept review to opening involved:

  • creating a credible long term commercial proposition, founded on the twin pillars of a highly suitable spirit maturation climate and a distinctive brand potential;
  • locating compatible, long term equity investors through a combination of marketing and networking over 2 years resulting in 18 investors from Europe, USA and Asia investing £8m;
  • sourcing complementary grant funding of £3m, predicated on the distillery’s economic impact;
  • negotiating in parallel funding agreements and construction contracts, enabling construction to commence 2 weeks after funding was completed in February 2014;
  • recruiting and training a team, entirely based in the Western Isles, to operate the distillery’s spirit, gin and bottling plants and its visitor experience;
  • opening the distillery on 1 October 2015, after a Ceremony and Ceilidh attended by 1000 people;
  • launching the Isle of Harris Gin – distinguished by its presentation, nose … and taste!

Ron chaired the Steering Committee, coordinating advisers (design team, legal and others) as the project progressed, overcoming a range of issues including those presented by building an industrial structure on one of the remotest islands in the UK.  He continues to support the project through its launch phase as an adviser, non-executive director and investor.  The project won the 2014 Business Insider Early Stage Deal of the Year Award.

Launching Other New Ventures – in different sectors and regions

Ron’s earliest experience of a start-up was the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival which welcomed 4m visitors over a 6 month period.  Other start-ups have included a US funded business services venture, an Indian Spirits Distributor and a £20m biofuel producer which converted waste to fuel.  All continue to operate successfully.

The biofuel producer operated in a highly volatile, price sensitive commercial environment, which reflected the changing dynamics of UK and international government support and the global oil industry.  Ron, as CFO:

  • implemented business controls to an AIM Listed standard;
  • negotiated the resolution of a significant construction claim and engaged in supplier and customer negotiations as the venture sought to gain operating scale;
  • managed liquidity during the early stage transition to efficient utilisation of production capacity, ensuring management understood implications of operating decisions;
  • created medium term business plans for UK and international expansion and led bank funding negotiations, resulting in a £15m bank facility to complement the targeted equity raise.

 Change and Renewal – in the private and public sectors

Ron’s experience of change in the public sector includes a secondment as Finance Director of one of Scotland’s two first wave NHS Trusts (assisting it transition to independent status), advising on the application and subsequent transition to Trust status of a £200m acute services unit and managing the first privatisation of an NHS Division in Scotland, after advising on its 3 year transition to competitive fee earning status.

His private sector experience includes advising SMEs in the construction, leisure and spirits sectors on the management of change or restructuring and mentoring Chief Executives of professional services organisations through the emotional and organisational challenges encountered during dramatic downturns in trading.

In the case of a leading £190m turnover international spirits group required to achieve EBITDA growth in price declining markets, with capital expenditure restricted to compliance and replacement, Ron as COO/CFO:

  • created a framework for coordinating, approving and monitoring a range of change initiatives encompassing capacity rationalisation, information systems enhancement, process simplification, costing, individual development and cultural integration;
  • led or sponsored worldwide pricing, brand planning, costing, information system and cultural enhancement initiatives;
  • introduced integrated, incisive reporting facilitating business development and supply chain performance transparency, systematic cost reduction and improved decision making;
  • rationalised 3 finance functions into 1, improved service levels from a reduced staff and increased staff retention dramatically through creation of a positive learning environment;
  • facilitated senior management workshops focused on re-appraisal and re-energising;
  • led the organisation, with the Chief Executive, in an open and empathising manner through two major periods of uncertainty provoked by potential disposals and restructuring.

Diversification – Reward v Risk – different skills and high personal commitment

Ron has led UK and international corporate and brand acquisition reviews, distribution and supply chain joint venture negotiations and two MBO attempts, the second of which resulted in the £208m acquisition of the Whyte & Mackay Group, Scotland’s then largest MBO.  This initiative, which required Ron to invest “hurt money” as evidence of his commitment and belief in the venture, involved an intense 9 month journey including:

  • preparing a credible, realistic business proposition in a declining market environment;
  • engaging with asset backed funders and private equity investors to raise the required funding;
  • negotiating, against trade competition, with the US parent group in the UK and USA to achieve exclusivity, prior to embarking on a 5 week negotiation period for the acquisition and funding;
  • launching, immediately after negotiations were completed, an independent group based in Scotland operating from 7 sites, with 750 employees, generating EBITDA of £30m and providing 9% of worldwide Scotch Whisky volume.

Ron was awarded a Bank of Scotland Finance Director of the Year Award in 2002 for his role in the development of the Group and the MBO.

Isle of Harris Distillers achieved Deal Maker of the year award