Mentoring fills the gap to deliver start-up success

David Capaldi, managing director of customer experience management company, Opinurate, explains why, in his experience, the opportunity to be mentored by a leading GlobalScot is the kind of support which money can't buy.

Managing, tracking and improving the customer experience is an increasingly important area for companies across all sectors of business.

Glasgow-based firm Opinurate supplies Customer Experience Management software which helps both major brands and SMEs gather and act on customer feedback to drive customer loyalty, retention, word-of-mouth referrals and spend.

The start-up's success in attracting £40,000 from the Scottish EDGE funding competition has proved to be a key milestone in its development.

"The Scottish Edge funding was very welcome but the most important thing that came from it was getting an introduction to a GlobalScot.

"Scottish Enterprise provided a shortlist of possible GlobalScots we might want to engage with. We chose Gordon Cunningham because of his experience as head of procurement at Gap Inc. His background in a major retail organisation allowed us to understand what buyers in big corporations are looking for."

An initial meeting with David and his team allowed Gordon to view the company's software and develop an understanding for the challenges Opinurate were facing.

"We want to grow a massive company out of Scotland and, to achieve that, we've got to behave in the same way as people who have been there and done it have behaved.

"One of the first things we learned from Gordon was the importance of focus and using your time properly. Prior to his involvement, we were more concerned with being busy every day.

"Gordon quickly helped us develop a mindset which allowed us to progress the way we work on a daily basis. What began as quite a casual introduction led to us creating a Framework based on his experience which the whole team has embraced."

Gordon was able to offer practical assistance which brought immediate benefits.

"We were selling to a large B2B organisation based in Dubai and dealing with their head of procurement. Gordon guided me on how I should be communicating with her to help her understand Opinurate's value proposition. Having Gordon mentor me in how best to sell into a large organisation was invaluable."

Opinurate currently have seven staff and the focus in the coming months is on growing sales.

"Over the last two years, we've concentrated on refining the product. Our software is really dependable, scalable and robust. Now it's about targeting new markets and increasing sales."

A combination of new business wins and renewals has given David confidence that Gordon's advice is helping Opinurate move in the right direction.

"A major high street retailer has recently renewed with us at a time when the retail sector has had some real challenges. For them to renew a high value contract with us was a huge endorsement and a big milestone for us.

"We've also just converted a softplay business on a contract worth £40k a year. For a business like that to recognise how important the customer experience is and want to track that experience in order to find ways to maximise it shows how much of a growth sector we're in.

"We're currently targeting clients across the UK but within three years we want to be selling into other markets."

Gordon Cunningham returned to Scotland three years ago and, in that time, has lent his expertise as a GlobalScot to a number of companies.

"Scotland is a place where there is a lot of good support for people starting up a company.

"Often where an entrepreneur is starting up a business, the skills that get you off the ground are the energy and the ability to come up with ideas and to sell but, once it gets that little bit bigger, it's areas such as planning and prioritisation that are often missing.

"Opinurate fit all the criteria for the sort of companies I like to work with - it's a business with high energy, talented people who are willing to listen. David has had a lot of previous success and experience but with Opinurate he was going into an area which was slightly different for him. He was leading the company and looking for a sounding board.

"My aim was to contribute in a few areas where I've had experience and help them put some structure around things like prioritisation, planning and problem solving."

David's positive experience of mentoring was reinforced by his participation in a recent GlobalScot ‘pitching for success' event organised by Calum Patterson at Scottish Equity Partners.

"It was great to get the opportunity to stand in front of VCs and have them listen to your elevator pitch. We only had three minutes so it was quite intense but it meant you had to get to the core of what you did quickly.

"One of the key things we learned was, within the first four slides of your presentation, the people you're pitching to need to be able to understand exactly what it is you do."

David has no doubt about the benefits which mentoring and the GlobalScot network has brought to his company.

"Mentoring has given us focus. From our most junior programmer right through to myself.

"As a start-up, there's no way we could have afforded the value that Gordon has brought to the business. It was so beneficial to get input from a person with that amount of experience and know-how.

"That's why GlobalScot is so important. From a start-up's perspective, I honestly believe that it's one of the most important things I've come across because it provides access to tangible, quality assistance.

"It's had such a huge impact on our business - frankly, it could have been the difference between us making it or not."

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