Introducing our Head of People, Steve
Since reading ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’, I set a goal to speak to one successful person at MarketMakers every month. This month I spoke to our Head of People, Steve.
Steve Cass is Head of People at MarketMakers and is such an influential, charismatic, fun individual. How did Steve get where he is today? I met up with Steve for a coffee so he could run me through his story.
Steve wasn’t inspired at school. He recalls how he only enjoyed subjects that had fun teachers, as in the 60’s teachers tended to be ‘ex-military’. His story starts back in school. He was told by his teachers, “you are stupid Cass” and “you’ll never be able to do anything”. Whilst discussing the future with his careers adviser at school, Steve said he wanted to be an Estate Agent. To which the careers adviser said “forget it”.
Following on from the advice he had received, Steve was looking through the paper for a job at 16 years of age when he saw an advert from the London Borough of Bromley looking for a ‘Junior Clerk’.
This is where Steve’s journey to success began.
The job was quite a simple one. Answering the phone, being on the front desk and completing admin jobs. Over the 2 years he was there, he realised he could make people laugh and found happiness in helping others. It was here that Steve recalls realising he had a personality and was quick witted, something he didn’t see in school. Still unsure where his career was taking him, Steve had various jobs in the following 10-15 years, including in his parents’ shop.
Whilst sitting through his training, Steve thought how he’d do things differently. Different ways to attract the audience and make the trainees better engage with the information they were given.
Later down the line, Steve started a job at Comet where he became an Assistant Manager. This required Steve to attend a 3 day course to become a ‘Trainer’. Across the course, Steve found the training general, unexciting and remembers thinking “I could do this better” (this was around 1986).
It was here that Steve recalls he had his moment and found his desire.
Given the aim of the course was for the AMs to relay the training they’d received to their teams, Steve re-trained the material in his own way. Resulting in his store being rated the best in the South!
What Steve didn’t know at this point, was the Head of Comet’s Learning & Development department had been watching what he was doing. He was astonished by the results he got from his training. It’s important to note that Steve still had no official L&D qualifications at this point, only GSCE’s that he had picked up at School.
The Head of L&D then asked Steve to go and work with him for the next 6 months, training new staff and running ‘residential training’ alongside other trainers. Following the desire to want to train others, it was here that Steve knew this was what he wanted to do. Steve then went to the library and began reading books and researching.
He became an ‘L&D sponge’.
After 6 months had past and Steve was loving the job he was doing, the Head of Training broke the news that the residential training had come to an end as it was too expensive to run. Steve was told he would have to return to his original job role.
Steve was heartbroken at this news and considered leaving to find something else, although he was aware he didn’t have any qualifications. Steve then told me that he then thought ‘stop waiting for an opportunity, go and create it and put your name on the map’.
When Steve started work again on Monday, he was greeted by the store manager who had no idea Steve was due back in store, and the only position they had available was sales. It’s important to recognise this was a professional crossroads. Either give up and forget about further development, or ensure he made a success even though the position wasn’t right for him at that point.
He took the second option.
As he saw what he wanted to achieve, he found the time to read books on L&D and sales training. He applied this to his ‘sales’ career and the results came in very quickly. He found others would approach him and say “how are you getting so many sales?”. Steve then decided to run training sessions before work to develop others sales skills. From this small action, the store’s sales increased and this got the attention of the Head of Training. By raising his profile through performance he was able to re-join the training team as a Sales Trainer for Comet.
Pretty soon he was headhunted by Kingfisher as their Training Manager, who paid for the ultimate L&D qualification at the time, a CIPD in Training Practice. The success never stopped, and along the way Steve has created the Most Effective Learning & Development Programme in the UK. He has also been recognised as the UK’s Learning & Development Champion in the Contact Centre industry. Thinking back, once it became clear what professional path he wanted to take, all thoughts about being ‘stupid’ were forgotten. Time to study and learn became easy and every day become a joy because he had a purpose.
So what was Steve’s one piece of advice?
“Don’t wait for your opportunity to happen, go and create it. Find the thing you love and you’ll find developing yourself and your career easy. The opportunities will then come to you.”