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AO’s STAR Programme helped build my confidence

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Life moves quickly for everyone involved with AO, but if you’re Martin Cross, it might not move quick enough!

We spoke to him about all the different jobs he’s had at AO, and what his journey into management was like.

How did you get started with AO?

2012 was when I joined the company. I interviewed for a job as a Night Loader, which people laugh at me for now. You’ve got to be pretty strong to do that job and it’s just not me!

Luckily, I got offered a different role in the Goods In office. Within a year I got the opportunity to be team lead and at the same time I started in AO’s STAR programme.

By 2014, I was Inventory Supervisor looking after the stock levels in the warehouses and became a manager of the department a year later. And recently I became Inventory Operations Manager.


Tell us a bit about the STAR programme

The whole thing is a personal development course that works on things like building your confidence, sorting out conflicts, personal effectiveness and loads more over the course of a year.

I got a lot more experience working with different people, learning about other areas of the business and it really helped with my personal confidence and at the end, we did a charity challenge.

We raised about £12,000 for the Donna Louise hospice in Stoke. There’s a graduation at the end as well, where they hand out awards and celebrate the hard work everyone’s been putting in.


Going from a supervisor role into a manager can be a tough transition, how did the company support you through that?

Well, I think the STAR was the first step in that, but it was also the general management around the company that made me feel like I could do it and mentor me in developing my skills.

The difficult thing for me was going to just being in a team with friends to managing them, and wondering how I carried myself around them. I got put on a leadership and management course, which has been really enjoyable.

It’s helped me get a more in-depth perspective of how to manage, ranging from the day-to-day topics but a lot on commercial awareness and the HR sides of things, too.

So back to present day, what impact has the current pandemic had on your team?

It’s more been the volume than anything. We’ve had some personnel changes from a restructure, but it’s been a big impact to socially distance ourselves.

Even though my team works with computers, we still have to be in the office to be around the stock so we have to make sure we’re doing it right and keeping safe.


What’s the most rewarding part of your role?

It might sound odd and a bit geeky but since we work in stock, it’s just a nice feeling when it’s right! We do a full year and half year audit of our inventory which takes six weeks.

After all that preparation and work that went in, we were getting results of about 99.98% accuracy. We work longer hours around this time to make sure we get it right but getting to those results is the most satisfying thing for me.


We’ve opened up a third warehouse in Crewe, what does this mean for your team?

We’re getting some additional resource to help with the extra demand that a third site brings. There’s a couple of things that we’ll have to judge, like how we transport stock from each warehouse.

When I joined in 2012, we only had one warehouse and we didn’t even use the full space so to have three that are absolutely packed is something else. Who knows what we’ll be like in even a few years’ time?!


If you could pass any advice onto other people about joining AO, what would you say to them?

Show that you care. I find that as long as you’ve got the right attitude and you care, it won’t matter about previous experience or knowledge to me, you’ll go far.

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