We asked Alan who has recently become a trustee of the VRA, to tell us a bit more about himself and his work. Find out more about becoming a trustee here.
As a Business Psychologist, I’ve worked in the fields of work-related stress, mental health and wellbeing for over 25 years. My first career was in social work and social care management, which was when I became interested in stress and mental health. That was back in the late 80s. I was a union rep then and latterly became a day centre manager. I had immediate colleagues who had some major issues, which had a massive impact on their work and their wellbeing, and it became very clear to me that stress played a big part in why they were struggling.
I didn’t start my psychology studies until I was very nearly 30. Now, I’m very nearly 60 and about to get a free bus pass covering the whole of Scotland, which is extremely exciting! I started my first stress management business in 96 and first company in 98. It’s fair to say I didn’t have a clue about business then but learned rapidly by making mistakes. I’m proud to say I’ve made just about every marketing mistake it’s possible to make. It was a steep learning curve, but that’s a good thing in business. After about 3 years, it gradually became clearer what business we were in (mainly training), who our customers were (large organisations), and how we could develop and grow (running events and email marketing).
In the subsequent years, it led to a lot of development, especially of training and tools for managers. Those training courses and tools have been evolving ever since. I had discovered that managers, who are key people in terms of managing risks to wellbeing at work, just did not have the tools to assess and manage stress risks at work. Developing and training managers to use those tools has probably been my most important contribution.
In the intervening years, I have developed several businesses in related fields, including a university spin out company. And for a couple of years, I was Director of Stress and Mental Health Services for one of the biggest Occupational Health Providers in the UK. Now I work with that company as a business partner, not for them as an employee. Which is a considerable relief, as I discovered that employment didn’t suit me! I’m much happier with entrepreneurial activity and with business development.
I still deliver some training and consultancy to clients. My recent clients have included BAE Systems and easyJet, and I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with HSE. Of course, everything changed in March 2020 and I’m currently delivering almost all services virtually. Now though, the focus of my working life is changing. I’m making all my tools and training available to others, so they can use them with their clients. And I’m working with other business owners to help them grow, sustainably and profitably in this new, post-Covid, working world. That’s also led me to develop both an online school and an online community, both work in progress. I really enjoy helping others with training, coaching and business mentoring.
My interest in social care and social issues has sustained throughout. For the last couple of years, I’ve been a director and trustee of a residential care facility in Central Scotland for people with long-term mental health problems. I chair the Care Committee there. And before that, for 8 years, I was a trustee of a homelessness charity based in Glasgow.