After realising he had an aptitude for helping young entrepreneurs find their way into the world of business, Ron Lynch has truly found his calling as the East Midlands Regional Director for the Institute of Directors (IoD), the longest running organisation for professional leaders.
Being part of an institute that has been running since 1903 allowed Ron to expand his reach, not only with his two companies, but also through mentoring. He now helps guide those with a good idea to move past the starting blocks.
Helping people reach their dreams is what keeps Ron going at the age of 61, whether that’s a law student who has created an app to help students find friends on a night out, or helping a failing business find a new direction and stay at the top of its game.
However, Ron was not always so sure of his path in life. He left school at sixth form to enter the working world but never stayed in one place for too long. It wasn’t until 2001 that he made the decision to become self employed.
“When I look back over my career, I’ve probably not been anywhere more than five or six years. It was only at that point I decided that one of the reasons I had moved around from time to time was because I had always felt like I had accomplished all that I could.”
He started out by helping a friend turn his business around from a failing patisserie during a time when Starbucks and Costa were coming onto the scene. Over two years, Ron helped transform the business, taking it in a new direction. With his guidance, the company is still going strong catering for corporate activities.
It was during this time that Ron realised what he wanted to do and started his first consultancy business Active8Consulting. Now he is the director of both a small training company Myriad, and Echo, which helps young talented musicians find their way into the industry.
Whilst he was building up his businesses, he became a member of the FSB before moving to the Chamber of Commerce, then after a friend introduced him to the IoD, he realised it provided the perfect support for him to grow his businesses.
Ron was presented with the idea of becoming the Regional Director for the IoD in 2007. Seeing how the organisation had provided a basis for mentoring entrepreneurs from all different backgrounds and of all different ages, it was an ideal role for Ron — and of course there was the added bonus of getting paid for it.
Pulling everyone together
One of Ron’s many passions is helping to create a better and brighter future, not just for the region’s economy but also for the next generation of workers. With the ongoing skills shortage, Ron believes there is a partnership to be had between businesses and the education sector and is tirelessly working to bridge the gap.
“It’s about being able to communicate with people, network with people, being a good listener. That’s what helps, because that’s where the ideas come from.
“I don’t think that employers want something different to educators, I think they want the same thing, therefore the dialogue is important in developing the sort of talented individuals that the businesses need in the future. The businesses can’t do that themselves.
“The more that we can bring the education sector together with the business sectors, the better, as there are some great examples in Lincoln. The University of Lincoln and Bishops Grosseteste in particular are looking at enterprising behaviour and have the support there for young entrepreneurs.”
Ron believes that an entrepreneur can be found in anyone who has a good idea and has the drive to take that idea forward. “Entrepreneurial people are people who are generally self starters, who don’t worry too much about whether they have or haven’t got a job. They’ll go out and do something and make something happen.
“The classic case is Richard Branson, who never went to university, I’m not even sure if he did GCSEs, but he had an idea and he went out and did it. There are two types of people: those who are pushed into doing it – they have no other option, and those who have the pull factor – people who see an idea, a gap and an opportunity and go and do that.”
One of the things that Ron is particularly proud of is his ability to mentor up and coming talent within the IoD student members. As part of the membership and to help them really understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, a £10 challenge was set for them so each group had to obtain the best return from the money.
“The first year that we did it, there were 50 groups, each with a mentor who they meet a couple of times. Then the students get on and make money. We made between £3,000 and £4,000 the first year. When we did it in October last year, we made nearly £14,000. That’s a great way of getting those young people involved in being enterprising.”
Keen to help the county get the recognition it deserves, Ron challenges businesses to use the rural location to their advantage. “You can view Lincolnshire as being slightly cut off because it is pretty much the biggest county in the country, but the centres of population are spread out.
“So what do you do when you haven’t got big markets to work in? You become more and more enterprising and you look for more and more gaps. You deliver things that people actually want and need. I think that then allows you to look beyond the borders of Lincolnshire to the vast market, and it’s a global market now.”
At last year’s IoD Awards, Lincolnshire businesses made their mark on the country. “It would be fair to say I think we have had more winners from Lincolnshire than anywhere else. As part of doing that, we are trying to put the county on the map. Those people who win our awards go into the national finals and will go against directors from right across the UK, which is challenging.
“We had our first winner from Lincolnshire, Sean Ramsden from Ramsden International. That’s great for us to be able to push that. He has become our ambassador for the whole of the East Midlands, not just Lincolnshire.
“I have often wondered myself ‘why does Lincolnshire do so well?’ It’s because there are lots of enterprising people.
“I think that the important thing is not to look at Lincolnshire in isolation, but to see it as part of a much wider economy and what we’re trying to do is provide opportunities for members to connect with other members and non members for that matter.”
Ron is currently working on a campaign to encourage more women to aim for senior roles at an event to be hosted in October. With the skills shortage, Ron believes that it is crucial to not leave anyone out because of their gender or because they want a family. Although many barriers have already been overcome, there are still more to break down.
“What we’re particularly focusing on is women in existing businesses who could become board members but are not for whatever reason. Employers have got to be much more flexible, they’ve got to give more access to flexible working hours, they’ve got to accept that a woman might leave to have a family and then come back. That all needs better planning because people who are good at the point of having a family don’t become less good when they come back. So there’s a talent pool there.
“It wasn’t just about inviting women, we invited men as well, I would like more men to come because quite often men are in the positions to make the decisions about promoting women and giving them the opportunity.
“It’s a two way thing. You need to make it easier for them to come back in and you have to persuade them that they’re valued enough to want to come back in as well. The IoD would like to see a much more even split on board.”
This feature interview was first published in issue 72 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine.