Planning for Expansion with Help from a Mentor (John Savage and Dr David Cliff)

Posted on the 8 April 2019

Planning for Expansion with Help from a Mentor (John Savage and Dr David Cliff)

Having only been founded eight years ago, Flame Heating Group has built an impeccable reputation as the North East’s leading heating merchant.

Operating from seven branches across the region, and two additional branches in Glasgow and Ayr, the company specialises in plumbing and heating equipment, supplying to sole traders, contractors and social housing groups.

Founder and managing director John Savage is an expert in the field, having worked his way up through the ranks of a major national merchant – from operating the warehouse floor to becoming the office manager – before setting up Flame Heating Spares in 2011.

With ambitious plans to open new branches, and to relocate Flame’s head office, John looked to find an experienced business mentor who could support and guide him through this exciting period of growth.

“At the time, the business was doing well; we’d started to expand, opening new branches, and I had a plan of what I wanted to do,” John reflects.

“But I’m a great believer of you don’t know everything, and you can always learn something new,” John comments, adding, “I started attending more networking events, to meet people outside of my industry, and just through networking, I bumped into David.”

An experienced business coach, David has over 35 years of management and personal development experience and holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Doctorate in Business Administration.

In 2006 he founded consultancy and coaching company Gedanken (the German word for ‘thoughts’), where he supports business leaders to develop the strategies they need to find a clearer direction and to improve performance.

John notes it was David’s understanding of his vision for expansion at the beginning of the mentoring relationship which helped him to build the confidence to execute Flame’s business growth plans.

“When I first met David, I felt that he believed in me; he understood my business plan and growth and what I wanted to achieve. For me, it gave me that extra confidence which has been gold.”

Acknowledging that being an entrepreneur can “be a lonely space”, John also recounts the added value in having another entrepreneur as a sounding board to share ideas.

“The mentoring for me has been great. It allows you to step outside your business and to re-evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and, having that additional support from someone outside the sector you operate within has also been really beneficial.”

On reflection of the mentoring relationship with John, David said, "My involvement with John ably exemplifies the value of mentoring support for people on their business journey. 

"Mentoring not only enhances skills and awareness, it offers valuable reflection and reality testing of entrepreneurs visions and plans, enhancing learning and reducing potentially costly mistakes. 

"The fact that John completely understood this, was reflected in his excellent use of mentoring and its contribution in part to the impressive success he has achieved."

Offering a final comment on the overall mentoring advice he received from David, John said,

“My personal relationship with David is great, we get on very well. He’s very professional and a very kind person who’s always believed in my ambition for Flame’s growth. Every time I see David I think it’s time well spent. 

“I think everyone’s got something to gain from business mentoring or coaching. If you have a plan, or the ambition to scale or grow, I think mentoring is a good process to go through. I think it definitely helps you to grow a lot quicker.”

Access to peer-to-peer mentoring support is part of Entrepreneurs’ Forum membership and includes confidential one-to-one connections, round table discussions and mentoring drop-in surgeries.

For more information, visit