31 October - Let me combine some thoughts with a little more of an old style update on what has been happening here.
We're now all getting used to the idea that AM is now CEO and I am chairman. But let's also be clear, that's taken some thinking, and adjustment.
It is, I guess, relatively unusual for an SME to have a working chair, even if part time (as I remain, although things are definitely better than they were). Having a CEO and COO may be more common, but the Chair working Chair role is less so. We've had to work out what that means.
First of all it's meant we've had to clearly define what I do now that is different from what I did when I was CEO. That means I don't line manage: only the CEO reports to me, and no one else. Without that distinction being clear to everyone I'd still have a steady path of people coming to my door, phone or inbox and AM would have no chance of asserting her authority or ideas. Nor do I now client manage. If asked by AM I might visit a client, but it would be a goodwill gesture. It's her job to decide on contractual issues now. And as a result I am not sitting in even on operational meetings (although AM thinks for communication reasons it would be good if I would, and in time I see reason to do so, but not yet: when it happens I clearly have to be her guest).
Those changes take a lot of work away, but that's what we intended. So how do I earn my keep? Well, that's the second part of this. We agreed that there are clear roles, externally focussed, that I could and should so, some of which are new or at least have been neglected for a while.
I am looking after the shareholders. AM does not need that hassle.
And I am looking after the bank - which is never a big deal for us as we've always had a cash retention policy which we maintain still (although on lower margins than before since the ex-Mrs CEO dies, since she used this as a means for punishing her former husband and co-shareholder whilst alive and now there are better relations, although still cool between their children and their father).
But more importantly I am taking on a key external relations role. This has three dimensions. The first is industry engagement, which is something I've always done but which is a matter requiring more attention right now anyway as changed regulation for our sector looks very likely and we see it as advantageous to take part in consultations on this both directly and within our industry associations. I have to admit I rather like this idea.
Second, I have a roving remit to look for acquisitions. As long term readers will know we've done these in the past and useful chunks of contracts or simple outright purchases of businesses have been of benefit on occasion. Again, long term readers will know we once had the manager I called Newc on this task but since he went it's not been formally covered. In the current environment we see it as more important. Our own natural growth profile is slower now and there is a real opportunity to buy on occasion at good prices. It's my job to look, see and action of need be.
Last, I also have a job of monitoring innovation. This company and the way it services its customers has changed out of all recognition over the nine years I have been here, and I have played a key part in that. Whilst I will not have a role in day to day innovation we again think that having someone seriously watching for opportunity is wise, and it links well with those other roles, so that's me.
Oh, and of course, I chair the Board, a role I don't take lightly. Running meetings well is a serious business that far too few managers do well.
And lastly I'm AM's mentor and confidante. Being CEO is a lonely job, and unlike any other as the buck stops with you, and rightly so as that's what you're paid for. But there's no point in making it harder than it need be. Whilst the CEO has the job of making decisions having some one to talk to in confidence is vital. That's me.
So that's it, as we see it.
So far, it's working. Time will tell if we've got it right.