Are you a Founder, Managing Director, or Chairman?

Westaways Team Picture

The last three years have affected how we all work.

There are many people like me. We have successful businesses that have managed the recent challenges and emerged more stable and more resilient. After all, as Roosevelt said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”.

Companies that can grow from start up at more than 20% per year for 3 years and employ more than 10 people are sometimes called “scale-ups”. The founders of these businesses often have a different set of skills to those that are needed to “scale-up” a business.

Some recent figures show over 650,000 companies are incorporated in the UK every year. More than one company every minute. 20% fail in their first year and around 60% fail in the first three years.

Clearly founders need to have more than a bright idea. They need the right product, the right funding, and the right team.

Who are you?

Every company is different, needing different resources, skills, and knowledge. Companies evolve constantly (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing), how much does the captain need to have his hand on the tiller?

When is it time to stand back and let the crew steer the ship. I certainly spend less time on the day to day but having said that I have never worked harder. I just work on different things.  The environment is important to me, as is the community that we work in. I suspect I still work around 55 hours a week. But I would not do these hours if I did not enjoy it, and importantly if it did not give me satisfaction.

Who do you want to be?

Are you the type who leaves work, shutting the door mentally as well as physically? Or does home and business blur into one? Every Founder has the challenge of balancing home and business life. Professional Directors can drive key performance indicators and get the best out of the companies that they run. My view of a Chairman is someone who ensures Directors manage the strategy and deliver a return to the stakeholders of any organisation.  These attributes are rarely completed by the same people. But the last three years have changed me. I now do all three roles and it seems to work.

What does good look like?

For me, I love jumping on the forklift and then wondering if we could put more on a pallet, I do not mind staying on because transport is running late. I might even put a new floor in the smoking shed, or new wheels on the factory dollies. Recently I have spent an estimated 60% of my working life on improving our sustainability. In this I am probably working as a founder. My team produces excellent data, and we are certainly growing at better than 20% per year, so I am acting like my business card, as a Managing Director.

And now I have my first role as a Chairman, this is of a not-for-profit organisation. I spend around 5 hours a week on this, but it has given me a wider perspective, and strangely I feel it has enabled me to perform better as a Managing Director and as a Founder.

Maybe my role is about inspiring, building trust and evoking participation, and this does not always have a badge. But most companies could do with one.