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Unsung hero...

Name: Alan McColm

Job title: Co-owner, director and head coach

At: The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum, Perthshire

Age: 58

Nominated by:

Sarah Heward, co-owner of The Real Food Cafe, who says: "I am nominating Alan, my husband and business partner, because he has worked away in the background supporting me in all areas of this business over the past seven years, in particular dealing with the most difficult problems and people. He has helped me save the company from imminent collapse, including negotiating key deals with a new bank to help prevent it, successfully fight a protracted case in employment tribunal, deal with crippling theft and deception and helped me to overcome employee illness and my dad’s death. He deals with the complaints that I don’t have the bandwidth and patience to deal with, in a professional and patient manner. And he has successfully coached me (no mean feat) and developed our team and organisation, introducing tools and techniques to better equip ourselves to be the best we can be, something he works hard at in the business, week in, week out."

How long have you worked at The Real Food Cafe?

I’ve worked her for seven years. Sarah invited me to become a director in June 2010. I initially split my time evenly between my business coaching practice and the Café, but have gradually shifted all of my attention to running the Café with Sarah. I have little or no previous experience in catering or hospitality, other than 18 months' work in a bar as a student. The majority of my experience is in professional services with the most relevant being business strategy, change, growth, coaching and operational improvement.

What are your responsibilities? 

I direct and manage most non-operational aspects of the Café including finance, planning, operational improvement and business change. In addition, I take care of most of the people and team matters, including management development, team-building, discipline and performance management, and I direct all HR activity. This is the most demanding and time consuming part of my responsibilities since we have a core team of over 20 people, rising to almost 30 in high season. 

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Problem solving and coaching, which are at the core of my skills and experience and something I’ve always found come naturally. My management and leadership style is firmly based on a ‘coaching’ approach - “ask vs tell”. As a result, we now have a very committed senior team, who understand how to use the basic tools to help themselves and their team members work towards continually improving their performance and taking pride in it!

What's your least favourite part of the job?

Having to roll my sleeves up and actually do the work I used to delegate (in a previous life). I’m also used to being the key decision-maker and I must be a bit of a handful for Sarah to work with! It can sometimes be difficult to relax and leave things behind us at work.

What is it that you like about working at The Real Food Cafe?

I love working with great people - our team and our customers. I love being part of (and contributing to) the success of a top-class business.

There is no shortage of problems to solve.

How do you feel about being nominated as an unsung hero? 

I’m very flattered! Without doubt, Sarah is the most talented (and sometimes awkward) entrepreneur I have ever worked with and I feel lucky to have met her and privileged to be part of such a special business.

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