The Peer Space Fireside Chat with John Courtney, CEO of Boardroom Advisors

The Peer Space Fireside Chat with John Courtney, CEO of Boardroom Advisors

An episode of The Peer Space fireside chat, hosted by Niall Jones, interviewing John G. Courtney, CEO & Founder of Boardroom Advisors.

In this episode, John talks candidly about his business experience and discusses the importance of relationships, boardroom atmosphere, the impact of Brexit and the pandemic on businesses, the value of seeking expert advice and much more. Below, you can view the video. Underneath that, you will find a transcript.

Watch the video here:

Video Transcript

Niall: Yeah, Thank you. I think we can get started John.

John: Okay cool.

Niall: 25 25 on the call. We are recording everyone. Some of you will see some information in the chat window about both Boardroom advisors and the peer space, so welcome to this Peer Space event.

It’s something like the 50th virtual event over the last year. Previously, The Peer Space was a dinner group in Sophia, Bulgaria, where I’m currently living and effectively the peer space is really all about gathering spaces where people can connect with each other. 

We run a lot of events where we do a mixture of sort of sharing time, one-to-one time, sometimes something creative and this is actually the first fireside chat with John. 

Welcome to everyone watching and participating from the UK and perhaps mostly across South and East Europe, we’ve been reaching out to. And welcome to John Courtney, of course from Boardroom Advisors. So let’s let’s begin.

John, I think it might be good just to start by telling us a bit about yourself, your story, and perhaps the story of Boardroom Advisors. 

John: Okay, well listen. I’m a serial idiot now. This is business number seven and I’m 109 in start-up years. So, they start backwards, so Boardroom Advisors, this is the current business and very nicely, we’ve got a couple of people, several people actually from Boardroom Advisors here today, which is nice. Thanks for showing up and supporting guys. 

So listen, this isn’t an advert but I need to tell you roughly what Boardroom Advisors does and that’s we provide Part-Time Directors to growing businesses, either Non-Exec Directors or Chairs, but actually the biggest piece for us is Part-Time Executive Directors – so Marketing Directors, Operations, Finance, Sales, even Managing Directors. 

So often businesses, early stage businesses, perhaps that don’t yet need want or perhaps can’t afford a full-time sales Marketing Director, or all smaller businesses, family businesses, SMEs we call them, in the UK who perhaps- oh somebody’s got some background noise. 

Niall: Guys if you could everyone, could mute that’d be great. 

John: Thanks, Niall. So family businesses that want to grow. So that’s kind of what we do and we’ve got a 100 plus people mainly in the UK, but now expanding overseas, and Niall is part of that overseas expansion. So we have a number of International Directors, Niall – in Bulgaria and we have Ireland, Portugal, Spain. We’re just starting the states, and in India, and we’re looking for more International Directors in order to help our global expansion. Oh that’s a bit of a mouthful really wasn’t it Niall? 

Niall: Where’s the idea come from? What was the original? How did it build up?

John: Well it started, the company’s, which is five and a half years old now. And originally it was just me. I’d exited my previous business which was a digital marketing agency which I had with my wife, Kath – who’s now our Marketing Director here, and we exited that.

And like most people I did nothing for a little while. Played lots of cricket which is great, but the body doesn’t survive very much of that these days. So I got a bit bored really, started to do a bit of consultancy work, started to work with some early stage businesses. I chaired a couple. Did some consultancy works and some NED stuff and so on. And that was great, and I really enjoyed that.

I just wanted to do a bit more really. I hate the word ‘entrepreneur.’ I think it’s well, it’s just horrible. But it’s that whatever it is, a bit of an affliction, you can’t do anything at kind of half pace. You have to grow it worldwide for it to mean something. And my wife keeps asking me “ why “. But that’s kind of why and because I enjoy it. Really, because you know, if you start businesses and run businesses. it’s not about the money, it’s about the creative process. And you know, you want to create something out of nothing that people buy whether that’s services, as we are now, or in the past I’ve had products -fertilizers, cricket, bats. You know, so it’s but you invent a product or a brand and people buy that service, or that product and that’s wow!, I created this out of nothing. 

Niall: Really, totally related to that. What about, I think the first question I wanted to ask you after the introduction is about the sort of the dynamics of boardrooms and the sort of vibe, and how important chemistry is? I just wondered, what your insights are into that, or experiences are, of how important that is and how you might go about creating the right chemistry in the boardroom?

John: It’s absolutely vital. Because if you start from the basics, so boards are there, the boardroom, whatever size that is even if it’s a startup and it’s you know, two people around the kitchen table, or it’s you know, a big multinational and you’ve got two dozen, well they don’t have two dozen, but a dozen people  around the fancy board table, the dynamic and the reason for being there is always the same and that is to agree on the strategy and the direction of the business, that’s the board’s purpose. And in order to do that effectively and efficiently, then the people around that table, whether it’s two or twelve, have to be on the same page. They have to you know, they don’t want to be claims of each other, quite the opposite, but they need to be able to have a rapport with each other, and to be able to discuss ideas and to get on with each other. 

You know we’ve all met people I’m sure that you know you kind of instantly don’t get on with. No matter what you say, they always take account of you or it’s always awkward or whatever. Well, just imagine having those people around the board table would just be crazy wouldn’t it?  

No you don’t necessarily want your best buddy there either. it’s not about friendships, but it is about getting on, and one of the actually, one of the good things, so in the Boardroom Advisor’s own board is my wife Kath, and one of the great things is Kath and I are very different. We are kind of chalk and cheese. Jack Stratton and he and his wife. We’re very different but actually we complement each other, so as well as having personal skills that get on, you need complementary business skills that can dovetail, and you know, Kath’s great. I’ve lots of weaknesses and Kath covers nearly all of those which is brilliant. 

But in any business you know, that there are always weaknesses, and you need people to be covering each other’s weaknesses, you need all the bases covered. It’s why one of the things with that’s really pleasing, you know when we’re invited to perhaps be part of a client’s board, and we’ll put up one or two of our advisors, and the client will interview them because they need to understand two basic things, one is do they have the skills, and can they add to the piece, and can they cover some of the bases that aren’t being covered at the moment. 

But fundamentally, can they get on with this person? You know if you can’t do both of those things then there’s something seriously missing. So it is certainly about chemistry, but it’s also about a skills mix I think. 

Niall: Okay, so part of the idea of this conversation was to talk a bit about the UK market but also the new normal. So I was wondering, thinking about it from a UK and Europe perspective, and let’s assume we’re talking about the pandemic and Brexit and how do you sort of see the main impacts of this new normal? how would you describe it on the impacts on businesses, senior management decision makers, what sort of change would you say? 

John: Well listen, the pandemic’s awful and people have lost their lives, and people are sick so you have to recognize that and we all do I’m sure. From a business point of view you know it’s done lots, made lots of changes. This sort of thing is obvious. You know, I do. I don’t know, seven or eight Zooms a day. For us, as Boardroom Advisors it’s really helped our business. Because we are a virtual company anyway. We don’t have a single office, we have over 100 people, we have no offices, everybody always works from home, although you know in old school you never said you’d work from home, it was always you know, I work virtually because that sounds a little more business-like doesn’t it? 

But actually now we all know what that really means because we’ve seen everybody’s homes. You know even government ministers, we see their homes even though they prop the flag up in the background and have the red box open, and all that sort of stage stuff, we still see into their houses and we know they’re human beings. 

But it’s helped us as a business, partly because we’re virtual anyway, but also because it’s helped our international expansion. Because suddenly, you know I can be in Bulgaria, I can be in New York, I can be Istanbul – all within the hour. And to do that before would just be ridiculous, impossible and so that’s not going to go away . You know, it’s a light in Aladdin’s cave, somebody’s opened that door and we can see inside.  So I’m sure the zoom type world is going to be with us but also offices I think will come back to a degree and we’ll end up with a hybrid model. And in fact you know from Boardroom Advisors, we’ve gone from completely face to face to completely zoom because of lockdown and we’re planning for our own business to have a hybrid model. 

So we’re talking to – for example, an International Director in the states and at the moment he can use our hundred people that are sitting here by zoom but we’re planning for him, together with him that he will have some advisors on the ground. Because six months time let’s hope – some clients will want face-to-face meetings and some clients will be happy with zoom if that’s the best advisor they can get. It’ll be I believe, It’ll be a hybrid model. 

So, will it be entirely this? No. Will it be entirely what it used to be? I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be a mix. Unfortunately, thank God! You know we’re all going to be spending a lot less time traveling. You know, how many hours and days have we all wasted of our lives traveling on motorways going to see clients? Or customers or whatever it is. And sure some of that’s gonna happen but so much less and isn’t that just wonderful?

Niall: For sure, for sure and better for the planet of course. 

John: Yeah, on the commute to the office, you know perhaps people will go into their offices once a week for team meetings. I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see but rather than every single day traveling an hour into their office, you know suddenly that time’s freed up. And okay you know of course it’s crazy. We’re all a bit stir crazy, aren’t we at the moment? Because we can’t you know in England, we’re locked down. We can’t get out. One of my sons lives very close and I can’t get out and see him. It’s you know it’s horrible but there are lots of benefits. I’m sure some of those will stick with us.

Niall: Sure, sure. So I just want to turn a little bit toward sort of actually the work of Boardroom Advisor or the work for Boardroom Advisor. When you do have a good board of advisor on your board, I just wondered sort of how would you sum up the real impact they can make? What’s the real difference they can make? Maybe if you have some examples or and why now especially?

John: You know, and well it depends what sort of advisor they are. So, we provide Chairman for example. Now, Chairman’s role is very different. So Chairman is there to chair the meeting obviously. It’s there in the title but that’s actually quite a bit more than that. They’re often a mentor to the Chief Exec. They’re often you know working behind the scenes to pre-plan some of the board and to get some of the people on side and you know pre-agree some things that are going to come up at the board meeting – depends on the size of the company obviously. But a Chairman’s role is very different and it’s quite fundamental to a company. And you know smaller companies I remember, you know when my previous businesses, with hindsight, I should have had a Chair because it’s very easy if your founder and chief exec, it’s very easy to have a one-eyed view. It’s you know, well it’s a one-eyed view. 

Chairman can give you perhaps the bigger picture there. Chairman and the Non-Exec where they both share something – is that they’re both external and objective. And so they’re not day-to-day in the business. So you know when the CEO’s head is you know, plowing on a particular furrow and a Chair and Chief Exec can say, “well that’s really interesting but actually you know what about X and what about Y?”. It’s like. “Oh crikey yes! I hadn’t even thought about”. The external views are absolutely essential from the Non-Exec Director or from the Chair.

If it’s the Executive Director who we’ve put around the board, well that’s different because they are in the business, they’re just not there every day of the week. So they are, you know, perhaps well they are subjective rather than objective because they’re in the business, perhaps not every day. So they have kind of different roles really but having the blend of the board and having the balance of a board is so essential. 

Niall: Cool. Okay. And, I’ve reached out across South East Europe for this, for people to join this call. So with the guys out in Europe on the call, with ambitions maybe to work with or through the UK to reach out to the world potentially, I just wanted to ask you a bit about your thoughts on the UK Market, its many nuances, its unique nature. How business is done there? Perhaps, they may be different from how it may be in other other places and how important it is to be sort of tuned in maybe to sort of specific niches and that kind of thing. Just to get a bit of an insight into your take on the UK Market for companies outside the UK.

John:  Well listen, this is seven businesses i’ve had all in the UK so forgive me if I’ve got a subjective view. All right, I think the UK is a great place to start a business and to run a business. The tax regime here is wonderful. The scale-up community, the mentors, the incubators and accelerators – you don’t know quite where to start. There is so much now and you know if I look back to the first business I started 40 or something years ago in the UK, we had none of that support structure. 

Support structure here is fabulous. I know you’ve got some of that in Eastern Europe as well but we’ve got it in spades in the UK. And, listen I’m not an ambassador for the UK but I think it is a great regime. And perhaps people outside worry that Brexit is going to change things or make it more difficult. Actually, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to come to the UK and to set up here or expand here or whatever. Because the UK is now throwing its doors wide open. It wants to do business even more with people from different countries.

The tax regime will change and will probably change for the better. The red tape will probably change for the better – not that there’s much here anyway. But you know, there was some European red tape which will be slowly dismantled. So, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. I think, are we going to end up being another Singapore with a very low tax regime? I’m not so sure we’re going to go that far but that’s kind of the direction of travel.You know, if some doors are closing then the UK wants to open other doors and I think it’s a great opportunity for people.

Niall:  Great! Yeah cool. Okay and actually my final main question was about you know obviously it’s a time of elevated fear, uncertainty, many unknowns, not least considering the capabilities of your network, how do we sort of collectively and individually as businesses, professionals? How do we sort of navigate all from your point of view? What’s your sort of advice for senior decision makers or business people who are trying to navigate this sort of fog, If you like?

John: Well, get a jab as soon as you can – that will be my my first suggestion. You know, I’m 109 as Isaid, so i’ve seen a few crises maybe not one like this before but you know, financial crashes and so on. And after every crash, every crisis, you get a big bounce back, you know. The roaring twenties were roaring because of the first world war and everything closed down and the initial factories and all this sort of stuff. And then suddenly, people got released and there was lots of changes there. Wasn’t one of them was growth in business? And roared ahead business broadhead, people off changed their attitudes as well and kind of appreciated their freedom a lot more. 

And same thing happened after the second world war, a lot of attitudes, personal attitudes changed but business roared ahead. And you know, I’m absolutely certain, well the anecdotal evidence is from places like Singapore that aren’t locked down. That have come out of there, that they’re locked down, their business is roaring ahead like nobody’s business. I’m sure it’s going to happen here as well, provided that the jabs do get us out of the crisis that we’re in, Which i’m pretty confident. And I think, It’s going to be a wonderful opportunity you know.

They were saying also in the crisis that lots of new businesses start in a crisis and start in recession times because things change you know. Whenever anything isn’t the norm, wherever the mold gets broken, for entrepreneurs that’s a wonderful opportunity to do things differently. To remake things, to be the disruptor you know. And if people’s personal attitudes to life are going to change, have perhaps already changed, that creates other opportunities for people. 

So, you know lots of negatives obviously but from a business point of view, I think it’s going to be as soon as this crisis is over, I think it’s going to be the roaring 20s or yeah the second version of the roar in the 20s.

Niall: Yeah, brilliant! So before we open up to any questions for anyone. John, if anyone wants to find out more about Boardroom Advisors, what would you suggest that they do?

John:  Oh that’s easy! Probably just go to the website, Kindly put those on the chat.  

Niall: I’d put a link again in the chat there again

John:  That’s kind of great, Thank you. 

Niall: Thanks John. So, I’d like to open up now. We’ve got officially about another 15 -17 minutes, so I’m happy to take any questions spoken or written. I haven’t got anything written in the chat so I’m just gonna get a review. Does anyone have any questions for John? If you do, a hand raised.Oh, Helen, Helen, go for it yeah.

Helen:  Hi everybody! So I’ve sat on boards for the last 10 years, running alongside my current company that I just exited, “thank goodness!” and I said that with a smile on my face. Would you advise people to have a specific CV set up just for board positions and highlight what they’ve done? Because obviously, a CV for general sort of work is going to be very different, I feel for boardroom positions?

John: Yes, yes very much Helen. And yeah winding the clock back, I did exactly that. If I was going for an executive position, they would get me a CV, number one. If i was going for a board position it would be CV -number two. You’re absolutely right, if people are looking for a board member, what’s the question in their head? What does this person bring to a board? And then, so you know, going back to the earlier part of the conversation, it’s how can you be external and objective? What are the skills that you bring? How might they marry with other people? How do you work with other people in the board environment? All of those types of things, I think are very important and if you just whack out a normal CV hoping to get a board position, I think you’re much less likely to get a result. Does that marry with your own view?

Helen: Yeah,100 percent. If I was to put one together, I’d sort of have the history of my recruitment world and my company but I’m looking at working on at that at the moment – funnily enough. And maybe another question is, something that the Boardroom Advisors do help Directors looking to get into that sort of level, have a sort of a CV format? Does your company advise on that?

John: Not that we don’t have a process to do that. But one of the things that we do obviously, is we talk to our people very much about, also their LinkedIn profiles because anybody worth their salt is going to research and where are they going to do most of their research? It’s going to be on LinkedIn. So having a professionally laid out LinkedIn profile, and if you’re going for board positions again, having it in that format and you know you’re focusing on certain areas and not on other areas. You know it’s a second CV isn’t it? So yeah, very important. Thanks, good question, Helen.

Helen: Excellent! I do have one more but I don’t want to hog the time.

John: Crack on while you’re here.

Niall:  Go for it.

Helen: Okay, so my background is in psychology. I did a psychology and business degree. And I’m so fascinated by the types when companies don’t use psychometric testing or some sort of psychological, psychology aspect to bringing people in on the board. And I just want, If that’s the sort of thing that you would look at whether you do because you know you’re saying earlier about personalities and some of the hardest person, when I’ve been chairing positions and I love chairing and I love being part of a board, but yes there are times when certain personalities just don’t affect or fit the alignment of the company.

John: Yeah, we don’t do it ourselves. We recommend that our clients do it, particularly the larger ones. The smaller ones perhaps can’t afford those external services but you can do them at a very simple level you know. You can do DISC profiling. You can do DIY DISC profiling, which is really just a kind of a much smaller version of some of the more professional things but that mix, having knowing what somebody’s profile is I think is very important. And in DISC profiling, you know I think, it’s if you’re a D and a red, you’re going to be a certain type of go getter, a more A type personality, I think if memory serves. And if you know that that’s the type of person that you’re getting on your board that can be good or bad – you know maybe exactly what you need, particularly, maybe for a Sales Director. 

But it may not fit with, you know if you’ve got other type A’s around the table and bringing another type A could be a potential disaster. So, it’s something in my previous business- in the Digital Marketing Agency, we did this profiling and particularly, when we took on trainees we hired by personality, more than by what subject they studied at University. Because we were going to train them some skills. We just had to make sure they had the level of Intelligence and that their profile would fit in with the others, that you know, where we would see them going. So I think that’s very important. Difficult for the smaller companies to do. But again, I would recommend, just look up DISC and you can do your own DISC mini profile without much cost, I think.

Niall:  Sorry, I’ll say I’m a big fan as well of this profiling. Any other questions for anyone? If you raise a hand or nothing.. about the board.Yeah, Adrian. I’ve got at least one more. Adrian, go for it.

Adrian: I’m interested to hear, John, that you mentioned DISC profiling. Because I’ve just been looking at what I would think is perhaps a slightly more sophisticated version of that called the GC Index. GC standing for game changer and I wondered If anybody else had come across that and whether they had positive or negative reactions to it?  I’m wondering about becoming an accredited tester and an agent for it.

John:  Interesting, I haven’t heard of it but Helen’s nodding ahead, she’s the specialist in this area obviously.

Helen: Yeah, so yeah, I have seen, I’ve actually used it myself, on myself because I wanted to see what I came out with  and it was so accurate. I loved anything on personality testing. Anyway, I haven’t used it for a client because they can become quite expensive and I don’t know how to analyze it myself but certainly I have heard very good things, Adrian and I must admit 100 percent.

Adrian: So If I do become an agent, we need to have another conversation. 

Helen: Probably too, yes!

John: Interesting, there’s also similar to that and this isn’t my special subject by any means, but there’s a company called Crystal, which merges with LinkedIn and if you sign up to the Crystal program – I’m not connected with them at all, then it will tell you the profile of people that you’re connecting with on LinkedIn. And it will also tell you, in which case therefore, this is the best way of communicating with them. So you want to use short sharp sentences or you want to describe things or you want to paint a picture or whatever. Crystal knows, I think it’s called or Crystal something around that. It’s quite fascinating, I think it’s quite expensive but if you’re a fan of, if you use LinkedIn a lot, it’s a good knowledge too.

Niall: John, you’ve got another question from the group,  from Gorgy. Do you want to say it?

Gorgy: Yeah sure, thanks guys. My name is Gorgy based here in Bulgaria, running a boutique software development company. My question is – John, does Boardroom Advisors help with UK expansion? Let’s say, if kind of a cane connectors with different different people, different organizations, do you advise mostly internally or externally as well? So, how the whole engagement could eventually work? Because personally I’m interested in kind of getting more business within the UK rather than here – have somebody kind of looking into the company internally.

John: Yeah, we do both and we certainly help companies coming into the UK. Because, we have a lot of our advisors here and you know have set up and run businesses here. And we know the wrinkles of the market. You know the UK is a very mature market and it means that there are certain ways of doing things over here that it helps to know. Although a lot of the barriers have been broken down, it’s still there, still quite a bit of it’s who you know as well as what you know.

So opening up doors to the right connections is very important. So, we’ve helped quite a few companies enter the UK market, and in fact pre-entry. We’ve helped them with research into the marketplace and helping them put their plans together before they actually make that step to come over – so we’ve done that. And then we’ve often helped them once they’ve got here to expand in the marketplace and perhaps supply other people around the board table or whatever the need is. And we’ve also done the reverse. You know in the UK, we help people export. We have quite a lot of people who have international experience in other countries. For us, it’s always about trying to find out what the client’s underlying need is.

Perhaps in your case – entry into the UK. Somebody else for export outside. For a third, it might be for exiting the company. For another, it’s developing their strategy in a certain area. So there’s always underlying needs for a client. So, the trick is just to find out what that underlying need is and then see if we have the right personnel or persons who can help with that need. And we can’t always but now we’ve got a hundred plus people and they’ve all been around a few blocks like me, we can cover most bases. 

And we had somebody ask us the other week to help them start blueberry farming in Estonia and we had two advisors plus myself – so three, who had relevant experience with that. So, I kind of figure, if we can do that, we can help with most. So, certainly coming from Bulgaria into the UK, that’s yes – certainly happy to help. By all means have a chat with me directly or probably, actually if you’re in Bulgaria have a chat with Niall and we can take that offline.

Niall: Cool! I’ve got at least one more question. Does anyone else have something? John, I was thinking about major do’s and don’ts. Or any anecdotes of particularly good and bad experiences like when you’re forming a board? Is there one particular thing that’s a success factor? Things that are big, things not to do, do you have any sort of thoughts on that?

John: Well, yes I suppose. Having regular meetings is essential. In Boardroom Advisors, we have monthly meetings, regional directors, board meetings and we have one at two o’clock today but they’re in the diary. Regular is clockwork everybody knows where they are so if there’s actions hanging over for one meeting coming to the next then you know what the time scale is for that. 

So doing things regularly, I think is absolutely essential, in terms of don’ts – well yes. I think I would say what’s the objective of a board meeting. It’s to look at the strategy and direction of the company. It’s not necessary to dig down into the detail of some of the day-to-day things. In most companies, that should be at management level, that’s for weekly management meetings perhaps. But board meetings are there for the strategy and direction of the company and it’s just worth remembering that and sticking to that as what you achieve otherwise they become the same as the management meetings and then you start to think well what’s the point because I’m going to talk about it on Monday at our weekly management meeting as well. You’ve got to separate the two, strategy and tactics – two things are very different. 

Niall: Helen did you want to come in something?

Helen: Yeah, I just was going to agree with John there. I think that the biggest thing with the don’ts -having say been on board for many many years is, people that do it because they just want the grand title. They don’t actually have an interest in the organization, the charity or whatever it is that they’re working with. And they don’t read the information and it’s just you know, it’s a waste of their time and it’s also it’s a waste of the rest of the board’s time and you can see pretty quickly somebody that’s just using it. As I don’t know on their Linkedin profile or on their CV which is a real shame actually. So I think people really have to go into board positions knowing that there is work doing behind the scenes. It’s not just a case of having a coffee or a chat around a board table. Would you agree John?

John: Yes, I would and also from the other side, I would say when companies are looking at taking somebody on their board don’t be too flattered by you know their huge CV and list of titles and you know – that IBM this and Microsoft that . Sometimes the big stuff, if you’re perhaps a smaller business, the big stuff is it can be too grand. You’ve got to be realistic about the size of business you have, the needs of your business and what type of person, what type of candidate, what type of skills are going to actually help that business move forward, so not to be flattered by some of the big company stuff – If you’re a kitchen table, startup business.

Niall: One more question, I think John from probably the last question in the time, we’ve got Aleister. Did you want to put that question?

Aleister: Sure, thanks Niall. John, hi! Can I ask, if appropriate, what’s your view on diversity and inclusion in UK boards. 

John: Well, yes obviously, there isn’t enough. You know I might, I also I’m a great believer that you get, you take the right person. And you try not to look at color, you try not to look at sex, you try not to look at anything else, age, you always try and take the right person. But if you look at the UK as a whole, where you know the boards aren’t terribly diverse. There aren’t enough women, there aren’t enough people of color, you know, that’s a fact. How to do it without going overboard? Without being prejudiced the wrong way. I don’t have terribly many answers. But certainly, to have a diverse board, it has to be right. If you look, you can’t stereotype people either. You can’t say, well women are great to have on the board. No, is that person,  the right person to have on the board? Are they the right personality? Do they have the right skills? But as an overview, yes of course, the more we can do. Have you got any wonderful magic wand, Aleistair? As to how we can do that?

Aleistair:  I’m in the same camp as you, John. Which is I’m still looking for that one but I think it’s a very topical conversation. I’m a big believer of, it’s skill that should drive the choice – combined with fit. I was chatting to a professional service contact of mine recently, runs a big accounting business in the West Midlands and they have specifically asked not to see any location or name on any CVs for anybody that they look at taking on. So that they go at it with a completely clean page.

John: That’s nice, isn’t it? Yeah, I quite like that. And listen on my own original director’s board, we have several women. They contribute strongly. I think that’s a really clever way of doing it. I mean, I think the world has changed. If you look at the UK market a few years ago, there was definitely a bias against women that perhaps that wasn’t the board, wasn’t the right place for women to be. Wasn’t, what was a ridiculous mindset? But you know that it existed and that doesn’t exist now generally speaking.  So, the world has changed. Should there be positive discrimination, how should that be? I think not having names or you know making them as neutral as possible so people are choosing without even being aware of such issues is probably a really good idea. I don’t know, has anybody else got any suggestions as to how that can help him? 

Helen: Yeah,no, this will probably linked in with the event that I’ve just seen put up on the chat for about AI next Tuesday that Niall has put on.

Niall: Monday 

Helen: I’m on my days, all day Monday after valentine’s. But no, there’s a company that I’m in talks with at the moment that are setting up basically completely non-biased interview questions and one of those things that I think what Alistair was saying. You know about taking complete anonymity and I think that is a way that a lot of businesses will be going down now. Because they can’t afford to be seen in any way shape, make shape or form especially when they’re doing mass interviews for say call center staff. Or say capita, they for example, when they’re looking to recruit, you know everyone has to be really careful. So I think that is going to be a way that a lot of businesses will go down – the AI route, which is one of them but also they say that the anonymity and the non-bias selection without question

John: And I think just going back to the point points we made earlier, that from a practical point of view, never mind how we should be seen, which is a fair point but also the reality. What’s a good board? A good board is diverse in its culture, in its thinking, in everything that you do. Having all those bases covered around the board table is part of being diverse. So how can it be the wrong thing to do? It has to be the right thing to do? So that’s fascinating.

Niall: Great, so John thanks very much for your time today and thanks everyone else for coming along. We’ve just gone slightly over the time, that’s so it’s a very good sign. If you did want to receive the follow-up to this, we can send the video to you in the chat information. You can just leave your email in the chat or just message me your emails and by all means follow the Peer Space for other events like this. John, from your side any last word in terms of or just to sign off ?

John: No, just thank you. Thanks everybody for turning up and listening. Listen to me and more than happy to help. Do contact me by email or via the website or whatever if you want to talk about anything and thanks very much.

Niall: Great, thank you very much everyone see you again. Cheers. 

Gorgy: Thank you.


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Written by: Kath Dawson