This week we have been sharing our interview with George Elliott, experienced Chairman and NXD. George has a proven track record in profitably growing technology companies and brings together a unique blend of commercial, financial and international expertise. George’s achievements centre around building and bringing successful companies to market, including executing four IPOs (Wolfson, Craneware, Cupid & recently Calnex Solutions) that compete and win at a global level. Since 2007, George has been non-executive Chairman or NXD of over 20 companies, one of which was headquartered in the US.
Running a high growth business is extremely challenging. One wrong decision can fold a company. The style and agility you find in a high growth business is something that every SME with an appetite can adopt, which will undoubtedly bring greater success and put you in a far stronger position to deal with disruption.
The main takeaways from our interview with George are:
- It’s important to identify what phase your company is in, Technology, Process or Customer? It may sit in more than one area, however identifying the phase(s) will prioritise and focus your attention.
- Your starting point should always be about the market. Why would someone buy your product or service? What problem is your product addressing? Always assess the end user. Start here! It doesn’t matter if you have a big name behind you, if your product doesn’t resonate, it won’t be successful.
- THINK BIG!! Your business plan is a live document, a constant work in progress. Don’t start with where you are now, you should always start from where you want to be in 3-4 years time. What does success look like? How do we get there? Build the Plan from here! It doesn’t matter how small your business is, you must have a clear Plan or you will lack serious direction.
- When hiring a NXD, again it stems from your Plan and where you want to be. This will determine the skills you need. A NXD should bring substantial relevant experience and diversity to your Board. It’s not about hiring friends, it’s about bringing someone who will debate and challenge your Plan, providing honest, constructive guidance and playing a strong part in navigating the company towards what success looks like for you.
- If you don’t have an open & honest board with the right motivations (those motivations being what’s good for the company), it can be extremely damaging to businesses during difficult times such as COVID
- Strong communication is key! This is the CEO and CFOs responsibility! Always take time to communicate the Plan with your workforce and be clear on everyone's part in delivering that plan. A workforce with no direction that keeps chopping and changing will be unsettled and inefficient. It is critical that everyone knows the Plan, and their part to ensure it is executed to a high standard.
- Openness is extremely important! Successful companies evolve and it’s essential that the right leadership team is in place to tackle that next stage of the journey. Difficult conversations can be hard, but they need to happen. 99% of the time the answer is staring you in the face, but the people aspect makes it difficult to handle. Again, it’s ALL about the Plan!!! If your Plan is clear and communicated effectively, it takes the personal element out of any difficult conversations when expectations aren’t being met. The longer these conversations don’t happen the more damaging it can be to the company and the journey the company is on.
- The new age CFO is the Deputy to the CEO. The CEO & CFO should be co-piloting the running of the business. The CFO should support the CEO with critical business decisions using key data. The new age CFO should have full visibility across the company, understanding it’s product, service and the competition. You cannot govern a business to the required standard without full visibility. Very strong communication to articulate the company’s position to stakeholders and investors is also essential. It’s no coincidence why CFOs are becoming excellent CEOs in larger companies.
- The CEO should be continually gathering intelligence from customers and competitors. CEOs should be very externally focused. There is a nervousness in Scotland to share our plans in case we give away ideas but if we don’t understand the market we're targeting, how do we know our product or service will be well received, resulting in huge waste of time and energy.
For those that missed the interviews all videos can be found below.
For advice on how to identify, select and retain the right people for your business, please contact Laura Montgomery on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07514 623 461.