LFP156 “The Importance Of A Great Chairman in Business Success” w/Brian Basham serial entrepreneur/Chairman for over 40yrs

Brian, inter alia, Chairs this excellent charity.

One thing serial entrepreneurs learn if the value of a Good Board in helping drive business success and avoiding car crashes along the way. The ne plus ultra is having a great Chairman. Brian Basham has founded many businesses and chaired many businesses. In 1976 he founded the Broad Street Group with £100 he had borrowed and ten years later listed it on the LSE for £36 million. Furthermore the Broad Street Group was heavily involved in the M&A decade and Brian advised many FTSE Boards, gaining yet more insight into what makes Boards tick and the role of the Chairman

Brian was Chairman of one of the LFP’s former brand partners Archover for many years and continues to Chair Boards having not far short of 50 years of experience of Boards

Thus I can think of no-one better to explain to us all the most important aspects of the Chairman’s role having experienced the whole NewCo to listing/trade sale several times over as well as having many case studies in mind – several of which he shares from the country’s top companies.

Topics discussed on the show include:

  • Brian’s recovery from heart attack to running the London marathon – from being unable to run 385 yards to running 26 miles and 385 yards in some six months
  • the importance of fitness when young for the rest of life
  • Brian’s career journey starting in Fleet Street
  • the importance of perseverance – Brian was dyslexic yet rose to become the editor of the City Press – the then oldest newspaper in the world
  • Brian’s first choice of Chairman for the Broad Street Group – and the values his Chairman brought
  • “bringing people on Board who can help with the thinking”
  • “what you have to be very careful about when starting a small business is that you bring people on board who are compatible with you”
  • avoiding “parish Council” meetings
  • the need to respect the people you bring onto your Board
  • what is the basic role of a Chairman?
    • “the fundamental thing is you don’t want people to quarrel”
      • example of the British Airways Board under Lord King, Hansen’s Board culture
    • keep people focused on their clear objectives
    • the value of formality without being stuffy – you want people to open up
      • need proper rules, agenda, timely papers – handling those
    • diffusing situations
    • SmallCos need monthly Board meetings
    • CEOs balking at writing the CEO report to the Board
  • My anecdote of the value of a formal monthly Board meeting even if just with oneself in a company of one…! Why this was so useful.
  • The value of writing to know what you think
  • Weekly short conversation with the Chairman to keep in touch – psychotherapy in a way – “surprising things come out of it”
  • retail businesses
  • digitisation driven by lockdown
  • business mentoring from the Chairman
  • the satisfaction from mentoring
  • how the Chairing role changes over time – the power see-saw – in NewCo the CEO hires and fires the Chairman, in ListedCo the Chairman hires and fires the CEO
  • Brian’s antipathy towards Private Equity and debt funding for SmallCos
  • if you are thinking of investing in a firm look at the pattern of ownership – in re care around lifestyle businesses
  • AIM governance challenges
  • the immense value of great capital providers in adding value to the business
  • you need to be careful not to let the entrepreneurial spirit be stifled by corporate governance
  • you need a guiding spirit in the business and this cf corporate governance – case study of BP
  • “[this balance is ] hugely complicated and needs wrestling with all the time”
  • Boarding as an activity versus The Board as A Thing
  • the challenge with unhelpful or negative capital providers who distract attention from the business. The Chairman as human shield.
  • understanding the motivation of the people around the Board
  • Case Study with Hermes
  • need for CEOs to be flexible and alert – lateral thinking at the Board
  • Case Study of Brian founding Primrose Care which he sold to BUPA – the value from advice he received from mentors
  • capital comes not from VC’s but VC’s funds with their own parameters unrelated to the business needs
  • the importance of the Chairman in helping maintaining good relations with multiple capital providers. Case Study of Brian being let down this year post Covid re fund-raising and how one deals with that
  • you must remember you are not just selling your product but also selling your company [to shareholders and potential shareholders]
  • analogy with investing – few people put all their eggs in one basket investing but may do when funding
  • how to find a good Chairman?
  • the use of networks
  • be clear what you want from a Chairman – “you don’t want a Chairman just for the sake of it, you really don’t”
  • the potential of tech to change this process
  • scepticism of “arms length” recruiting of Chairmen without eg banking experience when Chairing a bank
  • RunningSpace – a charity set up by Brian’s running coach to help people avoid suicide
    • Jacky Youldon the founder – BBC Sports Unsung Hero of the Year 2019
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRG8b8lACgw
  • Brian’s final message is to find one who is excited about the opportunities in the current environment and in the business 

And much much more 🙂

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