From a Manchester chippie to Dubai

Sole mates

How two Mancunian companies came together and ended up in Dubai.

Leo’s Fish Bar is something of a Manchester institution so, living and working around the corner, it was unsurprising that Col Skinner, founder of digital marketing agency Profoundry, found himself in there on a fairly regular basis.

One day, a few years ago, the digital marketer decided to ask the chippy’s manager, Alan Whaley, if he could get some of his staff members a discount. After asking where Col worked, Alan explained that he had been looking at how to increase the shop’s social media presence and as the pair chatted – and hit it off – it became apparent that they could work together.

‘When I explained to him what our challenges were in terms of social media, he had the solutions more or less there and then,’ says Alan. ‘He had business acumen that exceeded his age.’

‘At the time I’d seen so many agencies about setting up our social media, and none of them had given me the sound advice Col did.’

Col earned himself some free fish and chips for his efforts but the relationship didn’t end there.

Col continued to track the progress of the fish bar, watching as it transformed into a progressively more upmarket restaurant. He also found out more about Alan, who isn’t your regular chip-shop owner.

He’d bought Leo’s Fish Bar on a whim, when he was visiting Manchester on a business trip from the Middle East. And now not only is Alan a chip-shop owner, he’s also operations director for a large conglomerate based in the UAE and CEO and managing director of another boutique consultancy, Reform & Whaley.

Alan saw Col develop and grow his own agency, and Col began providing small amounts of marketing work, until last year when he was asked if he wanted to join Alan in Dubai for 10 days’ marketing consultancy. ‘Naturally I said yes,’ Col says. Since then he’s done more work there and has three new Dubai-based clients, with a solid footing in the Dubai market.

People do business with people. You can’t ignore the fact

‘Alan has a massive network of companies and contacts,’ says Col. ‘He is a mentor to me and has given me lots of advice. He’s the busiest man I know but will still finds time to give very grounded advice about business and sales. For some reason he has a lot of confidence in my abilities as a digital marketer and promotes me wherever he can, which I am very grateful for.’

While Col’s agency provides digital marketing advice and consultancy services, he says: ‘People do business with people. You can’t ignore the fact that we all make decisions based on what we like or dislike in the people we encounter.’

To that end, Col’s own business is based in a central Manchester co-working space called The Assembly, where he works alongside a range of individuals and group businesses, including consultants, designers, web designers and music producers.

Good relationships aren’t based solely on numbers or circumstance. Initial connections count for a lot.

Alan agrees, ‘The human interface is far more important than just clinically delivering results.’