THE GREAT JOB TITLE CHASE #4
For 15 years, I was wading through the murky waters of GMs / VPs / CMOs, all of which made me feel important but much of which was mutual stroking. If I’m a Chief of something and you’re Head of something, we’ll both be impressed with each other (and ourselves).
Starting afresh at Beaumont Karlson was a welcome change.
Two founders – who had already run two (successful) start-ups - invited me to join them in venture number three. I wrinkled my nose, thinking "why on earth do I want to work in Executive Search?"
Then the founders reminded me of stories I'd told them about the good, bad and utterly dreadful experiences I'd had as a potential candidate during the years.
"We will do better than that" they said. Idealism can be very persuasive. The job title 'Director' even more so.
There were four Directors in total, who would make decisions that affected the livelihood of the people we employed, the services we provided, the value of the entity.
In BK, every action, meeting, document, presentation was being watched, talked about, copied or ignored by the team that we hired.
THE CHAMBERS DICTIONARY.
Director (n.): A person who directs; a person who directs the shooting of a cinema film, etc; a counsellor; a father confessor or spiritual guide; a manager or governor; a member of a board conducting the affairs of a company.
The founders also knew two other players – a small agency in Italy, another in Belgium. The Italian had been in business for a long-time, but wanted to be part of something larger.
Small entities, especially in professional services, sooner or later reach the scope of their personal network. Connecting with another can bring new opportunities to the table.
Once agreed to dance together, the floorplan needed to be agreed:
Who was to get new work?
How would it be delivered?
Who owned the project?
How would the revenue be accounted?
These are the sort of decisions that’s need resolving at a Board level. Not just because it helps to count the numbers; it’s also because the decision shapes the modus operandi of the whole company.
It took many months of shuffling together before we realised that one group of us wanted the revenue to stay in the company to re-invested for growth, the other wanted to move it into his/her personal pension pot.
Both entirely legitimate routes – and were completely at odds. And there was no-one else to whom the decisions can be escalated.
And as Directors of a small company, you can’t hope to get a decision by shuffling the problem upstairs: You ARE the upstairs.
Ultimately, the paths diverged, and – years before Brexit – the UK and the Belgium-Italy axis went their separate ways.
MANAGEMENT DUTIES OF A DIRECTOR
Making decisions for the benefit of the company and its owners, and considering the interests of creditors in all-decision-making
Maintaining the company’s registered details, and its reports to Companies House and HMRC
Maintaining statutory company records and making them available for inspection
Keeping accurate accounting records
Monitoring the financial position of the company
Taking all reasonable steps to minimise losses if the company is facing financial difficulty
Filing annual accounts, annual returns and Company Tax Returns by due deadlines
Paying corporation tax and any other tax liabilities
Arranging general meeting and board meetings
Arranging and distributing minutes of meetings
Filing copies of resolutions
Not long after reaching the EU cross-roads, the BKUK was approached to merge with a larger player in a different space: BK delivered high-touch, high-value engagements, the other company was a volume business, a very successful recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) organization.
On paper, the perfect marriage. For us, access to a base of large-scale clients; for the new parent, an additional skill- and mind-set which would add more value.
In reality, it was a marriage between oil and water:
When the BK founding Managing Director moved from ‘head honcho’ to reporting to an executive who was a) younger and b) had no experience in our high-value work;
Realising that the route into the large-scale client opportunities were patrolled by gatekeepers - the account managers who had spent years developing relationships and revenue streams, and didn't want smart-arse newcomers putting it all at risk;
And that was a two-way street. In hindsight, I'm sure we were equally protective of our territories too.
Within a year, all four UK directors had moved onto something else (as you’ll see in Part 5).
And it all proved an insight into the reality of mergers, acquisitions and Director responsibilities. However much research, discussion, scoping and planning that goes in, the odds of success are stacked high against you.
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