Listen, ask questions and take as much advice as you can

Virtually Connected: with Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald is the Director and the CEO of CAMOR Ltd, a Edinburgh based specialist security company operating predominantly in the aviation sector. Paul leads a team of counter terrorism security specialists with a background in policing, military and other emergency services.

Paul is currently undertaking the SDS eVolve programme. Today he reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, overcoming challenges, and creating an environment for creativity and innovation.


E.S: As a business leader, what have been some of the major challenges during the past year or so?

P.M: “The pandemic has been extremely challenging for CAMOR as our main industry, Aviation, was severely affected.

The challenge was to quickly look at ways to diversify and adapt the operation addressing the immediate impact of the pandemic, whilst looking ahead and preparing for what the changing landscape would look like when the recovery phase in Aviation started.

As with many businesses, cash flow became an issue given Aviation was effectively at a standstill, but having the belief to hold our nerve, adapt our model, and demonstrate this confidence to the Board and Shareholders, resulted in further investment into the company."

E.S: What have been the major successes of this period of time?

P.M: "As a company we transformed the way we operated, moving to a more innovative and interactive online approach to delivering our training programmes.

Using “gamification” technology, our foundation level Aviation Security Training App led to a unique approach in aviation training, resulting in being shortlisted in the Best New Security Product category at the 2022 UK Outstanding Security Performance Awards.

We also worked tirelessly to offer an academic career path for security professionals, by becoming an approved academic training centre, and rigorously putting our training courses through the academic rating and vetting process, making them recognisable and transferable throughout all areas within the security sector in the UK and Europe.

We also achieved our Gold award for Investors In People, which is a reflection on how we value our staff in the company.

These achievements are, I believe, fantastic for such a young company."

E.S: Are there any particular goals that Camor has set for the next few years?

P.M: "Our vision is to be one of the leading security providers of Aviation Security training, aim to continue to develop and build our technology based academic programme, and expand into multiple UK and International security sectors.

To do this, we will be actively seeking further growth investment, as well as looking at joint ventures with key partners to develop our technology based products and rapidly catapult us forward with our business strategy."

E.S: You are currently undertaking the SDS eVolve programme — what were the biggest learning/takeaways of the programmes so far to you as an entrepreneurial leader? Was there a moment that stood out to you?

P.M: "The eVolve programme has been fantastic. As a new CEO transitioning from the public sector to the private, the learning experience has been invaluable for my own self development. There have been key areas where I have been able to self-reflect, as well as learn from my peers who are at similar or different stages of their own journey. This has helped me adapt and channel my leadership skills.

The programme has given me the confidence to face many difficult challenges, have a clear vision, and remain positive and enthusiastic throughout the early stages of the life of the company, whilst at the same time be encouraging and supportive towards my team and give them the confidence to develop with the company."

E.S: What can be learned from peers that you can't learn on your own, or from a college?

P.M: Although it is important to understand the theory, to combine this with advice from others, practical application and experience makes the challenges faced as a leader more real for me.

A textbook can take you to a certain point, but when you have to deal with the practicalities and rollercoaster of emotions during the difficult and exciting times, this gives you a real experience of being a leader. Being able to share those experiences with your peers and relate to others who have gone through similar experiences, understanding the learning and solutions in dealing with particular challenges is extremely valuable.

Although it is important to understand the theory, to combine this with advice from others, practical application and experience makes the challenges faced as a leader more real for me.

E.S: Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What's yours?

P.M: "I think everyone has their own unique style of leadership, but I am very passionate about what I believe in and what I am trying to achieve, but also humble enough to recognise that I don’t have all the answers.

I have found that my team has always responded well to not just my drive and enthusiasm, but also being given the encouragement, freedom and support to generate their own ideas.

It is important for the team to feel valued, and by recognising and acknowledging the contribution that my team makes, this promotes a rich environment for creativity and innovation, which is the key vision that I have as a leader, and as a company to succeed."

E.S: What are some of the mistakes you wished you could have avoided?

P.M: "Coming from the public sector, I came into the business with very much this as a mindset, particularly lacking in commercial experience. I found myself “giving away” free advice and training, which although important to establish an early position in the marketplace with “loss leaders”, also resulted in lost commercial opportunities.

I was also eager to show what we could do as a company, and this led to focussing on “us” as a company and the team, rather than targeting our core sector and the benefits of what we could bring to our clients. Although credibility is critical in our sector, this lack of core sector resulted in too much of a “scatter-gun” approach."

E.S: Any tips you would now give yourself for when you first started in business?

P.M: "I think, as well as those mentioned above, the most important part is having the confidence and self-belief in what you want to achieve. Set out your vision, have a clear strategy, recruit those that can plug any skills gaps and who have a drive and ambition to build and succeed with you.

It is also critical to absorb and learn as much as you can from those around you especially in the early stages. Therefore listen, ask questions and take as much advice as you can. Surround yourself with “critical friends” and peers, as well as experienced mentors as “sounding boards” from the start and as you continue to build."

E.S: As a member of the ES Community, what do you feel is the biggest benefit and value brought?

P.M: "One of the key benefits of being part of the ES Community has been the opportunity to learn from others with such diverse breadth and depth of experience. The practical discussion, challenges faced, the guidance and advice shared between the mentors and rest of the cohort has been fantastic. This has definitely helped me understand what entrepreneurial leadership looks like, and enabled me to map out my vision for CAMOR."

E.S: When you’re looking for new talent in the business, what are the most important qualities that you look for?

P.M: " In the security sector, where CAMOR operates, it is important in the first instance to have the credibility and experience in this area. However, equally valuable, is complimenting this with talented and experienced individuals from the other business, marketing, technology and design sectors.

As we pride ourselves on being very innovative and forward thinking in our approach, I look for those who can be original, generate their own ideas and make a strong contribution to the company vision. Those willing to self-develop, and who have a drive, a passion, and a real sense of pride in what they do, is also something I look for.

To attract the best people, it is equally important to ensure you have a strong creative and supportive working environment, and share your own passion and vision."

Listen, ask questions and take as much advice as you can. Surround yourself with “critical friends” and peers, as well as experienced mentors as “sounding boards” from the start and as you continue to build.


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