Q & A With Darren Smith

Darren A Smith - People Development Network
Darren A Smith - People Development Network
Christina Lattimer
I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance. I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.
Christina Lattimer


The People Development Network. Sharing articles/books/expertise from our authors and experts, for Leaders, Managers, HR Leaders and Business Owners
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Christina Lattimer
Christina Lattimer

Today’s  Q & A is with Darren Smith!


Darren Smith has worked in the world of supermarkets and suppliers for over 24 years. His story is one of a game of two halves. For the first 12 years, he worked as a Buyer & Category Manager in one of the big four UK supermarkets buying mainly fresh foods, from cottage cheese to fruit.

Seeing the opportunity to enable supermarkets and suppliers to work better together, he founded MBM and has spent the last 12 years working with suppliers on People Development to enable them to get the best from their people with their retail accounts through Sticky Learning http://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/why-choose-us/sticky-learning/

His main specialties are Category Management Training, Negotiation Skills, and Time Management. His personal blog on People Development. The latter particularly because he was once an ‘email inbox junkie’! His favourite film will send him into a tailspin as he has so many, yet with his arm up his back, he chose ‘Gladiator’.

When not working you’ll find him living in Thame with his wife, Gayle, and children, Gabby, and Jack, creating memorable experiences because he believes ‘life is for the taking’.

Darren A Smith - People Development Network

Darren A Smith – People Development Network

Q.   What Do You Do?

We solve the 3 main problems that HR Managers, Training Officers, and Learning & Development Managers, have with training.

Through our research we know that their 3 frustrations with training are:

* People attend training courses, but do very little with the learning afterward.
* Line managers are not engaged in training.
* Training evaluation is nearly never done or done badly.

Our unique training method – ‘Sticky Learning’, coupled with our 5 level evaluation model ‘Chain of Evidence’, solve these problems.

We are a training, provider. We charge more. We get results.

Q.   Who can most benefit from the work you do?

Suppliers to the big four UK supermarkets benefit most from our work because every member of the MBM team has either worked for a supplier or one of the big four UK supermarkets.

This means that we understand the mindset, challenges, and expectations from both sides of the fence.

Sales & Marketing teams at the suppliers will benefit most from our Negotiation Skills training programme, our Category Management training programme, and Time Management is the skill that unlocks all the others.

In essence, our initial contact is with the HR Manager, the Training Officer, or the L&D Manager, and then we directly support the Sales & Marketing teams at the supplier to be the best that they can be when they go up against the ‘big’ supermarkets.

Q.   What excites you about what you do?

There are 3 things that excite me about working at MBM:

1. As a specialist and an SME, we like disrupting the norm. For example, we were the first training company to say ‘No’ to one-day training courses because of the limited effect that they have

2. At a micro level, discussing with learners their frustrations about a particular skill and then providing the platform for them to discover their own solution. This might be through our paired learning ‘Learning Buddy’ scheme, or them completing one of the ‘Sticky Pieces’, or giving the learner enough motivation to self-discover a solution after the training.

3. Identifying opportunities in our industry that other training providers have missed. For example, our eBook on the trading regulations between supermarkets and their suppliers (GSCOP) http://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/a-complete-understanding-of-the-groceries-supply-code-of-practice-gscop/

Q.   What are you most proud of achieving?

I am most proud of our unique training method ‘Sticky Learning’. Developed through years of doing what everyone else does and being frustrated with the results, we decided to tackle the problem differently.

Gathering the best learning and development professionals in the business, using a room full of scientific research, we built the answer to the problem of why people learn so little on a one-day training course.

Sticky Learning is the result of 100 years of learning and development experience, some blood, a lot of sweat (Some tears!), and a determination to change the norm for the better.

We hear and see large training companies training, in the same way, they did 25 years ago. We believe that Sticky Learning will become the norm.

Q.    Who is the biggest inspiration in your life and why?

A wee Scottish guy that many will not have heard of, yet he is so powerful that those that do not know of him, and then do, would wish they had done years ago.

His name is Jack Black (Not the actor!). Jack runs a company called ‘Mindstorms’. A positive mental attitude programme. At this point, you have either put him in the ‘motivational speaker – seen loads of them’ pile, the ‘evangelist – argghh’ pile, or the ‘tell me more’ pile. I appeal to the latter.

Jack started Mindstore back in the 80’s. He was a social worker in Glasgow. He and some close people had suffered heart attacks, acute stress and despair. Starting in a village hall he talked about positive thinking to a few drunks. Now he fills halls with what he talks about.

Jack inspired me to leave Sainsbury’s after he came to speak. I left a well-paid job and a promising career. Every year I make my way to hear Jack speak, if only to be reminded of those phrases like, ‘You miss 100% of the shots that you do not take’.

Q.    What is your favourite leadership or people development book and why?

Speaking so highly of Jack Black I must be consistent and recommend Jack’s book ‘Mindstore  – The Ultimate Mental Fitness Programme’. Having seen Jack speak and then read the book things ‘came into place’.

I do not think that Jack speaks about any principals that are any different to Anthony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, or any other motivational speak. The way Jack tells stories and shares his life experiences appeals to me and I encourage everyone to search and find someone that appeals to them. Life is tough and having someone that talks your language, can inspire you, motivate you, and help you through the not-so-good times, is priceless.

A week in a Buddhist camp was a bucket list experience. I was fortunate enough to have a place on the Mindstore retreat some years ago. An experience I thoroughly recommend. I was sceptical, my son had just been born, and I was told that I could not contact the outside world for 7 days. Worth it!

Q.   What is the most important piece of business advice you can give our readers?

Desperately trying the avoid the advice I hear a lot of; get a good accountant, work hard, don’t give up, etc., which is all good advice. The one piece of advice I offer is to create an ‘Inspire File’.

One of my 2 speciality skills is Time Management, the other is Negotiation Skills. I was an inbox junkie when I was in the corporate world. At the start of the day I opened my inbox and at the end of the day I shut, with little in between.

Having been a student of time management for over 15 years and training in it latterly, I understand the power of getting stuff ‘out of your head’. My inspire file is a plastic folder containing papers, pictures and letters that help me to keep going. One of my favourites is a letter from my 8-year-old son that says, ‘To Daddy – Just remember what is around every corner’. He often says to me – ‘A rainbow’.

Thank You, Darren

You can find out more about Darren’s Making Business Matter here

You can view all Darren’s Network articles here


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