Polly Metcalfe, MD of The Ice Co
Having passed through six generations of the Marr family, The Ice Co is now one of the UK's number one ice manufacturers. MD Polly Metcalfe talks to BQ about her journey, from equestrian aspirations to inheriting the family brand.
What is it the company does?
The Ice Co is Europe’s leading manufacturer of ice products and the UK's number one ice brand. It manufactures bagged ice products, including ice cubes, crushed ice, flaked ice and ice blocks, for major supermarkets nationwide. First established in 1860, The Ice Co remains a privately owned family business, run by generation six of the Marr family.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My job is to ensure I have a passionate and highly effective team, which I’m proud to say I do. My role is mainly strategy led, looking at where the group is going in the next five years and how we get there. I also love the creative side, thinking of new products, and understanding trends and our consumers.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
In 2007, I graduated from university and immediately started working for the family business at our brand new site in New Covent Garden, London, managing the day-to-day running. When my father stepped away from the business in 2010, I became MD and over the past decade we have enjoyed significant growth. I’ve overseen a company re-brand, launched innovative new products, such as our ‘Ice & Easy Frozen Cocktails’, and won numerous awards.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Someone who is passionate about their team and what they do. A visionary who inspires the people to ride along with them on their journey into the unknown, through all the highs and the lows, and the wins and the set backs, yet still come out the other end with the same dedication and passion they began with. I’m not saying this is me, but it is certainly who I aspire to be.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge has been rediscovering the cultural direction of the business following a generational change. When taking over the business in 2010, I had worked alongside many of the team who were long-term employees and loyal to the previous family member. Leading this generational change with people that you have looked up to and respected for a long time is difficult when also trying to implement cultural changes for the future of the business.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Family time! Nothing relaxes me more than a big hug from my 15-month old daughter, Freya. I’m really lucky to be able to have every Thursday off to spend a full day with her. I don’t take anything for granted and if the business needs me, they know I’ll be there, but I certainly cherish the days with Freya, minus the guilt.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had so many ideas of what I wanted to be. First I wanted to holiday on the moon, so that would make me an astronaut, then I wanted to be a mounted police woman, or maybe I just wanted to be a horse. As teens hit, I was going to be the next Britney Spears, until I realised I couldn’t sing, which led me to an early career in acting. However, the dream soon faded and by my early 20s I was happily settled into working life at The Ice Co and haven’t looked back since.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I’ve racked my brains and can’t think of any, which must be a good thing and testament to the amazing team I work with each day. A pet hate outside of work is a common request from friends for ice for a party of 10. I’m like “you need about six bags, get to the supermarket like everyone else!”
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We are a young team with a lot to offer and a passion to build on what we are today to make the business bigger, stronger and wiser. We have three aims for the next five years: for The Ice Co ice cube products to become a household must-have, to add another factory to our portfolio, and to established the next big thing in ice products. It will be a busy five years!
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
We are all humans and we all make mistakes, but have the courage to get back out there and try again. Remember to look after yourself and your team – a stressed out workforce does not bring in results. Just because you put in the hours at the office, doesn’t mean you’re getting work done. I would say ‘do what is needed today in the morning and plan for the future in the afternoon.’
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
The years go quicker and quicker so make them count.
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