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The Sounding Board

I was very pleased to be invited to join an innovative business initiative set up by my good friend Richard Ross. ‘The Sounding Board’ is aimed at providing help and advice for SME businesses on a Pro Bono basis and in order to do this Richard has gathered together an eclectic group of individuals from varying business backgrounds.

So what was the appeal? If you had asked me ten years ago when was I likely to retire from a full time role I would have been quite forthright in my response saying something along the lines of ‘I had no intention of retiring’ and that I was quite likely to ‘die in harness’ like some old cart horse. But I can tell you now that one minute you are up with the lark, first into the office and still at it at 11.00 at night and then (for whatever reason) you find yourself reviewing what it is you actually want to do with the rest of your life, and maybe (shock, horror) you start to fancy the idea of doing something different and a bit more diverse as you cruise towards your remaining years. Circumstances change, people change, and you will definitely change. That probably sounds a bit downbeat, but it isn’t supposed to. The point that I am trying to make is that there does come a point when you realise that there is little to be gained by continuing to plough the same furrow year after year and that a single business, (and specifically the UK Gaming business) doesn’t need to be the epicentre of everything that you do. One of the worst things you can do, (as you sometimes see with football managers), is to grimly cling to a role when the smart thing is to be able to plan your exit and try to make sure that the right person is hired to replace you, or at the least is able to take on what I often refer to as the ‘grunt and shunt’ of daily operations. And of course, to do that before your Board does it for you 😊 In all businesses, at any stage you need to know when you have outstayed your welcome, or when your philosophy no longer matches that of the shareholders.

Typically the Sounding Board team take on three cohorts of businesses each year and each business is assigned to two members of the team. That team then hold a scoping exercise with the management and will then have up to six Zoom or face to face meetings with the senior team, identifying where they need help (or if they need help) and then working with the team to address the issues that are concerning them. Usually this process takes about six ‘meetings’ at the end of which we hope to have made a positive difference to the business and to have left the team with a strategic/tactical road map for the future. If a business feels we have added value then we ask them to make a donation to a charity that the group have selected. Having said that I am still in contact with more than one of the CEOs that I have advised and delighted to still be involved if needed.

It is now planned to grow the geographic catchment area of The Sounding Board and by definition the number of businesses in each cohort so if this concept of ‘Pro Bono’ management input and guidance across a wide range of businesses is something that appeals to you then feel free to contact me and I will be happy to have a call with you to explain how things are administered and how to take things forward.

One of the most fundamental things that I have learnt from participating with the Sounding Board, (having now helped the management teams of around six different businesses in wildly dissimilar sectors of the UK economy) is that the fundamentals of business are the same and just because you have worked in a particular sector for many years it shouldn’t stop you having a pragmatic input into sectors of business that bear no resemblance to what you did before! As an example, early on in the process I was surprised at how much of my experience in UK low stake gaming businesses proved helpful to the owner of a business making and selling industrial drilling bits for the Oil and Gas sector but I soon learned that a sound business approach and a few years of experience transcend perceived business demarcation lines. I often talk to people about the need to get into the corporate helicopter so that they can look down at their business and see how all the component parts are working together. You don’t achieve much by spending all your time in the long grass with the troops…

If you have a minute, click here to find out more and if you would like to talk to me about possibly also getting involved just drop me a note. Or you can contact Sounding Board founder Richard Ross through the website.

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