A Week in My Life: Iain Pearson, Executive Director of Business Development, Age Concern Central Lancashire
As Executive Director of Business Development at Age Concern Central Lancashire, Iain leads the charity's marketing and communications, business growth and innovation, in-store activity across the charity’s seven shops, and more.
With more than 10 years of experience in the sector, Iain is also responsible for community engagement and retail operations as head of the Business Development directorate.
Age Concern Central Lancashire - which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary - helps people live and age well in Lancashire, providing dementia services, including day support and advice; Live Well services like home help, access to benefits and activity centres; and retail services.
We found out what a week in Iain's life looks like...
My day starts by grabbing a quick green tea or two and making sure my children are up and ready for another day of virtual learning. Like many others, I’ve been juggling working from home with the utter joys of home-schooling, trying to stay on top of the never-ending to-do list - and interruptions - on both sides of the coin! At times, I fear I’m doing neither particularly well and my sanity has been pushed to the limits!
That said, with everything up and running school-wise, I turn my attention to the day ahead and kick off the week with a business development team meeting. With everyone working remotely and unable to be under the same roof at the moment, communicating and seeing each other on screen at the beginning of the week is more important than ever before.
I head up a diverse team that encompasses our communications and marketing executive, our business growth manager, community engagement staff and the charity retail team, so it’s a real mixed bag of expertise - and I’m certainly fortunate to work with some great people!
We use the meeting to track progress against the charity’s business growth action plan and to review each of the projects listed for the current financial year. We’re currently in our 40th year, for which we had big plans to celebrate, but obviously with the pandemic, these have been scaled back and tweaked considerably. However, we’re still determined to mark this special milestone so things are under constant review and our approach changes regularly due to the restrictions in place at any given moment in time. What a year to have a 40th anniversary!
I spend the rest of the day navigating my own workload - planned and unplanned - including everything from progressing strategic pieces of work through to catching up on emails and making sure I’m up-to-speed on any new Government guidelines relating to the pandemic and its impact on society and the charity sector.
Today kicks off with our bi-weekly executive team meeting, which includes our CEO, and colleagues from across the charity. This week, we discuss in detail our strategic focus for 2021/22 with an emphasis on innovation and growth - if the last 12 months has taught us anything, it’s that even with the most meticulous planning, we can never know what the future holds, so we manage expectations and have a more open outlook!
This means having a Plan A, B, C and D! Like many other charities, we’re facing big challenges in terms of sustainability and making sure the people we support still have access to our facilities and services in a COVID-safe way for the next 40 years.
We’ve seen a 50% drop in retail income, thanks to our stores being forced to shut during various lockdowns and we’re forecasting a significant overall loss by the end of our financial year in March of approximately £500,000. However, we’re staying positive and exploring how to maintain momentum, attract more supporters and, most importantly, continuing to provide our vital services to local people in more enterprising ways.
Of paramount importance, the executive team also keeps track of the charity’s finances and ever-important cashflow levels and projections.
We also assess factors such as the latest guidance from the local authority, including the dos and don’ts of helping control the virus at our day centres which, thankfully, are able to stay open and provide much-needed support to those with dementia and their carers.
Thereafter, the remainder of my day is spent developing the Patron’s Community, an initiative that sees us working with purpose-driven businesses to help them become a force for good, while achieving positive dividends for shareholders and beneficiaries. I catch up with colleagues over a virtual brew to talk about what’s next for the plan, which businesses we already have on-board, and where we go from here.
It’s a rarity today as I leave the house to go to work - it’s great to be out and about and to feel a sense of normality, plus it’s a welcome change of scenery and some much needed time way from the kids… much as I love them, of course!
Today is a day full of media interviews and filming - our CEO, service users and volunteers are being filmed by ITN for a piece that shines a light on how charities are struggling to stay open.
I arrive at one of our day centres and ensure that everyone is happy and comfortable to be interviewed. The TV crew are extremely helpful and ensure that all social distancing rules are kept to, even measuring the distance between our CEO and the reporter with a two-metre pole!
It’s reassuring to see how seriously it’s taken, especially as we film some of our vulnerable service users - their safety and welfare is always our number-one priority, and to hear them talk so passionately about the work we do for them is what it’s all about.
It’s then onto an interview with several local radio stations, again discussing the plight of charities and the devastating impact the pandemic has had. With filming all in the bag, it’s time to head off home - with a renewed sense of purpose to make our 40th year a success!
I’m welcomed at home by a perplexed 10-year-old with algebra homework and suddenly I’m wishing for another day of much-needed variety! Fortunately, Wednesdays are Couch to 5K day and we’re soon heading out for some fresh air and exercise!
We’re constantly innovating to explore new opportunities and maximise our current offers - the phrase “Always in Beta” comes to mind. This morning is more about iterative approaches such as improvements to our website, so I start the day by having a catch-up with the team developing our updated, and hopefully improved, version.
It goes without saying that accessibility and UX are key alongside the other stuff like a website’s look and feel. I’m pleased to report that the website’s coming along nicely and it shouldn’t be long before we’re ready to go live which is very exciting. It’s the culmination of lots of hard work behind the scenes, not least changing providers, hosting solutions and eCommerce platforms.
I spend the afternoon reviewing grant funding applications, both new and ongoing, ably assisted at a distance by my business growth manager. As Age Concern Central Lancashire relies on grant funding, increasingly more so these days, we’re always on the look-out for new grant funders and ways to access resources that enable the charity to deliver services such as befriending and access to benefits support - grant funding is a great way to do this.
In 2020, we received grant funding from The National Lottery Community Fund totalling £144,500, which supported the charity with its COVID-19 relief efforts in Lancashire.
This afternoon I also review upcoming awards opportunities as we firmly believe the charity’s efforts and the contribution of its staff and volunteers should be recognised. In short, it’s good for morale and also our profile within a very saturated charity sector market.
Last year alone, we won the BIBAs 2020 Business Hero Award, the Lancashire Business View Award at the Red Rose Awards, Most Creative Use of Lockdown Award at the Charity Retail Association Awards, and we were Highly Commended by the High Sheriff of Lancashire for our COVID-19 relief efforts.
I finish the day with a walk and some downtime watching the mighty New York Giants!
I try and use Fridays for a bit of reflection and forward planning because, if nothing else, the trials and tribulations of life have taught me that I benefit from reflection time and in fact some of my ‘greatest musings’ have come while my head is clear from noise and clutter.
Note to self - reflection time's easier without the constant interruption of kids learning, playing and causing chaos… I wouldn’t have it any other way though!
As I get older, the more I realise the true power of reading and life-long learning and that sometimes the answers are found where you least expect them. This is a life lesson I'm trying to instil in my kids. I also need to remind myself from time to time, but that’s another story.
I therefore spend the day looking at old papers from my recent health innovation course with Lancaster University, and start to think about applying some of the learning within the workplace. I find myself reading books such as the ‘Invincible Company’ by Strategyzer, and suddenly, I’m creating proposition maps to support strategy planning, and my head's buzzing with new thoughts.
My working week typically finishes at 4:30pm but, in reality, I’m constantly ‘plugged-in’ - answering emails and scanning our social media channels at evenings and weekends when the need arises. It’s all for a great cause, so doesn’t always feel like work.
After work is done for the day, I sit in my jammies, which to be honest I’ve worn for most of the day, and drink some wine, which I’ve thought about drinking for most of the day!