We’re delighted to share here some real experience from our board observers and the successful matches with their host boards.

Case Study 10

Board Observer: Anne Challinor, Executive Client Director, NHS Professionals

Support and direction on preparing myself to apply for non-executive roles particularly within the NHS/Health sector

Did you gain what you wanted to achieve, and in what way?

I received support and encouragement from Boardroom Ready, particularly when interviews weren’t successful following the applications, which was a ‘hard pill to swallow’ and the ‘keep going’ support . Development of my LinkedIn profile and CV were an essential element of the support provided by Boardroom Ready. Working with my mentor Ken Andrew was fabulous and he equipped me with the skills to complete supporting statements that clearly reflected my skills linked to person specifications. Pre-interview support was also critical as I hadn’t been interviewed for 17 years!

As someone who had spent the majority of her working life in the NHS I really wanted to gain board experience linked to the skills and experience I had gained and Boardroom Ready found me the ideal support from Graham Nice and his colleagues at Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.

What surprised you the most about being on the board of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust?

My goodness, this was a real ‘eye-opener’ on the complexities facing an NHS Trust – quality, resources, finance, waiting lists, complaints & incidents – all so inextricably linked! Having worked in the NHS for 17 years and being engaged with over 50 NHS organisations and viewing the NHS Professionals Board papers from the Clinical Governance Committee, at the start I was not sure this opportunity would give me much learning. I was surprised that during the first two meetings I was unsure about how I should frame any questions and didn’t want to appear silly – and having been on a very robust, challenging Board at NHS Professionals, this really surprised me. I have really learned a lot!

How has being on this board supported you seeking further board opportunities?

Being part of this Board has been about continued learning for me – being able to illustrate/talk about continued learning on my CV and at interviews I have attended has really been essential. The quality of the papers reflected what I was used to at NHS Professionals but I have been able to talk much more confidently at interviews about what board papers should look like to give assurance.

I’m not sure that any contributions I have made has been that useful to the Trust but for the Trust to have someone outside of the organisation being supported with Board development illustrates the learning culture of the organisation.

Also seeing how non-execs perform and present themselves at Board has been a good learning experience as well.

NED coach for Anne Challinor: Ken Andrew, Board & NED Coach

Having been on a number of boards over the last 30 years as a non-executive director, I have never seen a programme like Boardroom Ready. It provides valuable support to the aspiring NED who is searching for their first appointment. It’s done in a very supportive way which helps them mature into the role. In a way it’s an opportunity to practice the role and learn from it without having the immediate responsibility.

What is the primary role of the coach?

With Anne, I saw my role as assisting her in the preparation of both her applications and interviews so that it brought out the most critical skills and experiences of relevance for the particular role she was applying for. On the programme itself my role was to help her deal with the subtleties of the role and to get herself to set an objective for the programme so that at the end of it, she could claim specific success in that objective.

How does this happen practically?

The sessions are either in person or by zoom/teams.

Where and how did this focus help Anne?

Anne is a seasoned executive in the NHS and as such has much to offer in that field. Where I helped was to rearrange her applications and interviews towards the role of a non-executive position in the NHS. This switch of role is a difficult one for anyone but the trick is to focus on the brief for the role and restructure applications and interviewing preparedness to the requirements of the organisation as set out in the brief.

Host Board: Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust – Graham Nice, Chair

I believe very strongly that all senior leaders in the NHS have a duty to support and develop staff wherever and whenever they can. Many of us were supported by other leaders in the past and this creates confidence in a person’s own abilities. Skills and self-worth. I have always done this throughout my NHS career and now as a Non Executive Director and Chair, I’m in a position to continue to give colleagues’ access to experiences and people they might not otherwise get. It’s also good learning for me personally and for my trust.

What would you say is the benefit of the Boardroom Ready programme with your board?

Anne has spent most of her time with us attached to me as the chair of our quality committee, which is a board subcommittee, and latterly our trust board as I have become chair of the trust. The benefit is that we get fresh eyes on what and how we work and the debriefs I have with Anne enable us to share two way feedback, we can always all learn and programmes like this enable that learning and critique, which is a positive thing for good governance and ultimately patient care. I sincerely hope that this experience will help equip Anne to gain the post she seeks.

What has been the key contribution to your board?

As above, essentially fresh eyes and another perspective from someone’s experiences in another sector.

Would you do it again, and why?

I would absolutely do it again for all the reasons I’ve described above.

Case Study 9

Board Observer: Jane MacKenzie-Lawrie, VP Site Training Solutions & Global Events, IVQIA

I worked for a global company but was not necessarily involved in board process; this programme opened my eyes to how a company really operates, it ‘really helps to understand the governance and processes that are mandatory that you just don’t appreciate’.

Hear more on Jane’s fascinating experience of the Boardroom Ready programme in this in-depth interview, available on our YouTube channel here.

NED coach for Jane MacKenzie Lawrie: Ellie Doohan, Board & NED Coach

‘One of the things I love about Boardroom Ready is working with execs to take their first steps on the non-exec journey’

You can hear more from Ellie and her passion for the Boardroom Ready programme in this in-depth interview, available on our YouTube channel here.

Host Board: Ramsdens – Andy Meehan, Chairman

Ramsdens Plc is a diversified, financial services provider and retailer, operating in the four core business segments of foreign currency exchange, pawnbroking loans, precious metals buying and selling and retailing of second hand and new jewellery – but with only a small statutory board of 5 people.  The board had been discussing board effectiveness, and recognised there was a need for more cognitive diversity – and it’s not easy to engineer diversity in a small board.

As a seasoned Chair and NED, wWhat advice would you have for a new NED?

‘as a Non-exec director you have to have an opinion on everything that’s going on around the table, whether it’s your area of expertise or not – and that’s the massive challenge for anyone taking on their first NED role’.

There are many more pearls of wisdom from Andy  in this in-depth interview, available on our YouTube channel here.

Case Study 8

Chris Ross, Barracuda

Board Observer: Chris Ross, SVP Sales, International at Barracuda Networks

For quite a long time, my goal had been to figure out, how I could get my first board role experience. I happened to tune in to a webcast that Heather was speaking on, and was interested in the approach that the Boardroom ready program offered. Having interacted with a number of boardroom situations in my day job, I was curious to experience it from the other side, as a board member and understand the different perspective. My goal from the program was to gain this experience and hopefully determine, if pursuing a full NED role in the future was something for me.

Did you gain what you were looking to achieve from the programme? 

The program has been excellent, after engaging with Heather, I was quickly presented with opportunities of Board Observer roles to consider. Heather took the time to make sure that she was recommending potential roles that would be a good fit, and help meet some of the objectives we outlined in our discussions. It was very helpful, that Heather had such a good understanding of the companies she works with, and most importantly individuals on the board; this enabled her to find just the right fit for my first board experience.

I landed as a board advisor with M2A Media, and the fit seemed to be great, key was having a very engaged Chair and CEO, who valued the program and were very open to a newbie coming into the boardroom to learn.

I was positively surprised at how open and encouraging everyone was, to give input and comment in the meetings, and how I was urged to play and active part in the discussions. I think this was key to becoming settled, very quickly in this new situation. I was fortunate, with the environment and culture I was involved with, and this gave me great confidence to ‘jump in’ and where I felt I could add value, to do so. I had the added benefit of a kind offer form the Chairman to have regular not to one catch up sessions, to talk about either the board meetings or any other topics. I think I definitely felt ‘nurtured’ throughout the experience, and valued from day one.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience? 

It was an interesting time to join a board, as an observer. COVID had just hit, and it was interesting to see the decisions and strategies being considered to ensure the company stayed on strong footings through an unknown period ahead. I was surprised at the cantor and opens between the executive management and board members and how much value the management team took from the many boardroom discussions. I was surprised at how much I was encouraged to speak up, ask questions and get involved, despite being in an observer role. With great encouragement from all sides, it was possible to really get involved and find areas where I think I was able to add value.

What has proved the key takeaway for you to demonstrate back in your workplace?

I have presented to boards, as part of my role and it was interesting to be on the other side and how to change the thought process to be much more strategic. It is tough to avoid jumping into operational mode, but it was really challenging and interesting to find this balance.

Board matchmaker for Chris Ross:  Heather White, CEO of Boardroom Ready

This was a very quick match – in fact it only took one month to place Chris onto a board… and within 9 months of his 12 month placement, Chris was offered a paid Non-Exec role on the same board!

Chris had said from the very beginning that eventually he wanted to more than just his day job but also have a paid NED role – and we achieved this for him. His objectives were:

  • to gain board experience so that he could fully understand the value he would bring to a board,
  • to give him more mental stimulation, and
  • to make the transition from operational to strategic thinking.

It was really important that he gained inside understanding on an operations team providing information to a board, in terms of what that board does with that information, and to translate that into the business vision.

Chris was really open, passionate, confident and was seeking to work with a business that has a level of complexity, something challenging where he could make a real contribution. We had been working with Leslie Hurst for a couple of years and knowing Leslie’s business, I really felt that Chris could make a contribution as well as learn a lot from this experience. Great result!

Host Board: M2A Media – Leslie Hurst, Chair

One of the challenges young companies face is how to access high quality input in areas where internal resource may be less experienced. Bringing in an ‘active’ observer is a very effective way of bridging the gap.

Chris has been able to bring exactly this benefit to M2A – providing insights in his areas of expertise, sales and marketing, to help the board in its thought processes in this business critical domain. His success is best illustrated by his subsequent appointment as a non-executive director of the company.

Case Study 7

Board Observer: Jess GowarDirector,

Marketing, Sales & Clients, BDO LLP 

I wanted to gain a better understanding of how NEDs operated, how they balanced wider issues against commercial operations, and to gather experience outside the core strategic positioning, marketing and communications experience I’ve gained in my career to-date – this information will help shape the next stage of my career and how I approach opportunities that come next.

Did you gain what you were looking to achieve from the programme? 

I’ve gained more than I was looking for!  Not limited to just direct observation and guidance on the role of a NED, it was coupled with guidance from the Chair – who was generous with his time, and constructive with his feedback; my coach Caroline – who partnered coaching with motivation and encouragement; and Heather herself – who, even through lock-down, remained focused on ensuring I was clear about my goals and that the overall experience delivered to those.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience?

I enjoyed the whole process far more than I would have expected to under the ‘learning new skills’ banner.  Radiant are a dynamic company, with a warmth to the entire team, and Smarter Networking provided a strong and useful support structure throughout; both of these aspects ensured that communication, feedback, development and continued challenge were always delivered in a way that was helpful, just-in-time, and with clear direction – so I could immediately put learning to use.

Secondly, how much I enjoyed asking the ‘awkward’ questions!  My day-to-day role requires not just addressing an issue but having a solution and then delivering it.  Taking a NED’s viewpoint required slowing down and more fully testing the wider implications of the issue (is it a symptom or the core issue?) instead of focusing on ‘solving’ for the issue.

What has proved the key takeaway for you to demonstrate to your line manager back in your workplace? 

Using a deeper understanding of the challenges NEDs face to shape our positioning strategy and approach to clients, as well as reinforcing personal influencing skills and having deeper comfort levels in raising issues and implications at a senior level

Caroline Evans

NED coach for Jess Gowar: Caroline Evans, Board & NED Coach

The Boardroom Ready process is truly inclusive; we start with the premise that anyone committed enough to joining a board has the potential to do so, that any board can benefit from a board observer, and that diverse experience and empathy are the most important qualities of a good coach.

What is the primary role of the coach? 

Being there! Adaptability is crucial too; all our apprentices have capabilities and qualities of value to the boardroom, but no one has all of them, and initially it’s not always clear what’s there and what’s missing. A good coach will tease this out in positive, practical terms, on the one hand empowering and on the other providing checks and balances.

How does this happen practically?

Sometimes what’s missing is ‘nuts and bolts’ stuff like technical understanding or communication skills; sometimes it’s confidence or self-awareness. Every conversation, as it runs parallel to board attendance, creates the perfect opportunity to prepare for, or reflect on a real scenario. It’s the best way to learn.

Where and how did this focus help Jess?

It was immediately clear to me that Jess was very much ‘a natural’ for the boardroom and brought with some great corporate experience, but nonetheless there were practical aspects of board processes that were new to her, as was the size and style of the host business she joined. In her executive career she could ’set the pace’; a NED has to be more responsive. She also had to navigate the nuances of being a supportive value-add resource whilst remaining hands-off – but it hasn’t taken her long to find her boardroom feet!

Host Board: Radiant Law – Greg Tufnell, Non-Executive Chairman

A true Win Win situation, in fact Smarter Networking’s candidate becoming part of our Board at Radiant Law, became a Win Win Win situation.

As a result of having Jess on your board, did the dynamic change, and if so, in what way?

For Jess Gowar, our candidate from leading accountancy firm BDO who also brought us a great set of insights from the services and marketing world. For Radiant Law and our Board, we have been challenged and helped across both strategy and delivery and for me as Chairman, Jess has provided a valuable, professional and trusted set of new eyes.

What would you say is the benefit of the Boardroom Ready programme? 

This is a smart and practical way of improving your Board room and its performance.

Case Study 6

Board Observer: David Green


I was looking to gain hands-on experience as a board advisor for a technology start up business, with a mix of investor types on the board (founders, angel, VC/PE etc).

To observe the different roles and interactions played by these different parties, particularly the role of Chairperson.

To better understand the role of a NED and whether it was something I wanted to pursue further

To add value to the business through my commercial and international experience

To get 1-1 feedback and guidance from Liz and Heather

Did you gain what you were looking to achieve from the programme? 

An excellent fit and experience!. When reviewing my objectives as above all were met.

The Chairperson, founders and board were all very supportive and open. This made the experience even more enjoyable.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience?

After 30 years in operational roles I found the transition to advising rather than leading quite difficult.

Getting the balance right re how to suggest, question etc was harder than I had anticipated.

What has proved the key takeaway for you to demonstrate to your line manager back in your workplace? 

As he sits on the Excomm Board it has made me appreciate more the balancing he has to do re the different elements of the Board.

NED coach for David Green: Liz Shanahan, Non-Executive Director, Chair, Board & NED Coach

Getting your first NED role is often challenging and adjusting from executive to non-executive is also, at times, challenging. Some people get no training or support, others undertake NED courses, but what I really like about Boardroom ready is that it combines a mixture of practical experience as an observer, coaching and access to super training sessions, allowing our NEDs to develop their skills and expertise in a very safe environment.

What is the primary role of the coach? 

My role is to help our observers understand the role of a NED and support them in transitioning from executive to NED. Our observers tend to be very experienced and each one has a unique approach and objective. We are there to help support them to achieve their objectives in the programme. David has tonnes of executive experience and he recognised it was going to be challenging for him to engage as an NED without overstepping the line and drifting into executive support. My role was to help him to prepare for the meetings, advise him how he might deal with different scenarios and help him to minimise any personal or commercial risks, given the unique role of board observer.

How does this happen practically?

Face-to Face and calls, and now, mostly Zoom calls!  We generally have them before critical meetings and often, again, just after to discuss immediate items. Our observers are usually also working full time so it’s a big commitment for them, and jugging diaries can be challenging.

Where and how did this focus help David?

It reinforced David’s desire to remain and executive but complement it with one NED role. At some point he is likely to transition to more NED roles, but this experience gave him the ability to fully assess this before launching on an NED portfolio with no previous experience.

Host Board: Oxford Medical Simulation – Michael Wallace, CEO & Co-Founder

David joined the team and instantly brought considered and objective observations to the attention of the Board. David‘s experience, particularly within the scope of sales development and senior hires, proved to be invaluable. The most important and defining feature of his tenure with us, however, was his ability to ask incisive and pententrating questions across the business’s various functions. This provided the board with an opportunity to pause and reflect and this, in turn, resulted in the creation of excellent direction from the Board across to the management team.

As a result of having David on your board, did the dynamic change, and if so, in what way?

Absolutely. David‘s introduction to the board created a more balanced discussion overall and his objective insights added value to the management team as well as enhancing the strategic output of the Board.

Are you approaching your business differently in any way as a result of an insight from David? 

Very much so. As I mentioned before, David‘s insights and observations provided both the Board and Management Team the opportunity to assess the “why” and “how” of various situations. His impact, drawing from his own experiences, with regards to key functions within the business as well as key hires, has resulted in significant refinements within our operational and thought processes.

Would you do it again? 

Absolutely. David‘s time with us has demonstrated the very real benefits of having an objective and impartial addition to the Board, who bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Case Study 5

Board Observer: Pamela Harding, HR Director, PRS for Music

Quite simply to start my journey to transition over the coming few years from an executive to a NED career, and Boardroom Ready was a perfect way of doing this.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience? 

Having supported Boards and Remuneration Committees in previous companies I have been fortunate to experience and observe the workings of a NED environment, types of topics and discussions that were addressed. This exposure has given me some confidence as part of the Boardroom Ready programme to use what I have learned to develop a relationship with a small organisation establishing its first board. The Programme also made me realise how much I need to learn about the NED world.

One aspect that has surprised me is that I need to continuously remind myself that as a NED the objective is to provide oversight and advise rather than to do, which is much harder than I realised. Boardroom Ready provides a dedicated NED coach, which I found invaluable and have learnt so much from Bryan, who has been extremely giving with his time, sharing his experiences and providing advice.

What has proved the key takeaway for you to demonstrate to your line manager back in your workplace? 

A key takeaway is being able to add even more value to the boards and remuneration committees I work with in my current executive career, by having a greater awareness and empathy of the role of a NED and the common challenges they face, along with their significant responsibilities, legal and otherwise. It has also enabled me to further develop my commercial, financial and risk management awareness so I can add broader value as a NED outside of my HR and change management experience.

NED coach for Pamela Harding: Bryan Foss, Digital NED, Risk & Audit Chair, FRC advisor and Risk Coalition co-founder

Most decide to set off via the well-known NED ‘education’ programmes, while searching for that hard-won NED role alongside. By comparison Pamela was immediately placed into a pseudo-NED role and needed to ‘hit the ground running’ using her current skills, mentor support and a rapid but focused NED education and development plan.

What is the primary role of the coach? 

My role was to ensure Pamela was sufficiently prepared to be a strong contributor (and learner) in every board meeting, through just-in-time preparation, stretching herself within a reasonable risk framework. I also helped her to make long term NED contacts to follow or travel with.

How does this happen practically?

One-to-one calls were scheduled just prior to each board meeting and sometimes just after, supplemented with personal planning discussions. Inevitably these need to include positively managing the interactions between the new NED role and a demanding executive commitment.

Where and how did this focus help Pamela?

Pamela was already an executive board member working closely with NEDs, but within a year she had proven and felt comfortable in the shoes of an NED herself – and is now transitioning to a permanent NED role alongside her challenging and fast developing senior executive career.

Host Board: European Medical Journal – Spencer Gore, Founder & CEO

We have always had a very small board for an agile and growing organisation.

With Pamela joining us a pseudo-NED we needed to answer questions for ourselves and for her regarding the purpose of future board meetings, including frequency, attendance, agenda and proper preparations.

Are you approaching your business differently in any way as a result of an insight from Pamela? 

We decided that an external influence could best be used to validate and improve our strategy, and Pamela’s contribution to that proved more than valuable.

Would you do it again? 

Having access to an experienced executive with different experiences than our own is definitely something we’d recommend to others. It worked so well that we asked Pamela to stay on the board in a more formalised NED role after the initial period.

No doubt this also benefited her development too, but there was no doubt in our minds that she could always contribute and keep up in an independent role.

Case Study 4

Board Observer: Matt Edwards, Founder, Matt Edwards Consulting

I’d been in the role of CEO (at a creative agency) for a number of years, and I was looking for ways to broaden my experience as I considered the next stage of my career.  The programme seemed like a great way to get boardroom exposure in a business outside my own sector and at a very different stage of maturity.

Did you gain what you were looking to achieve from the programme? 

Absolutely – the experience has been both useful and rewarding.  Useful, because I’ve been able to see first hand how this fascinating industry works (streaming live events through public cloud technology) and have learnt a huge amount from the founders.  Rewarding, because although M2A delivers a very different service to a creative agency, it’s still a client-driven business and so there have been many parallels and situations in which I’ve been able to make suggestions based on my own experience.

Plus, it was great to work with a very experienced chairman.  He chaired the meetings expertly and has given me a good deal of useful advice throughout the programme.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience? 

After a long spell in charge of a 250 employee business, it was refreshing to work with a start-up and to see the founders building their business from scratch.  I have now set up my own consulting business!

Heather White

Board matchmaker for Matt Edwards:  Heather White, CEO of Boardroom Ready

I met Matt at the end of March 2019 and within a mere month had placed him on a small board – that’s really fast for a successful match within a month!

Matt was very open-minded about the experience he wanted to gain, but naturally wanted to use his experience as a CEO as well as his expertise in marketing and PR.  He wanted to experience a young business that was looking to scale, but also to work with a highly experienced Chair – and we found the ideal match with Leslie Hurst and a board he chairs, M2A Media.

With any match there are several aspects to consider; experience, expertise on both sides and of course the right personality fit.

Working with Matt his keenness to learn as well as share was very important for this match to work. Meeting Leslie I could see straight away that his open approach, and real willingness to want to support a senior executive with the next stage of their career, would ensure this could work well. And it did.

How has this experience helped Matt? 

I was not only the match-maker for Matt, but also his coach. After a period of time, Matt decided to change his career and so we focused on how to make the transition from corporate executive to running his own business. The coaching looked at what’s it like at running your own business (something I have done for the last 20 years), what networks to build and, as important, how to change your brand from working with a highly recognised brand to that of a sole trader.

It has been a real pleasure to watch, and be part of, the change and growth in Matt over the 12 months and he has certainly made a brilliant transition.

Host Board: M2A Media – Leslie Hurst, Chair

An overall commercial perspective able to helicopter and dive into specifics with analogous business experience helping to contextualize his inputs. Probably the most significant was his contribution to our strategy discussion where his clear thinking helped us think through how we prioritized our activities and subsequently how we should go about making the priority strategic items happen.

As a result of having  Matt on your board, did the dynamic change and, if so, in what way? 

Definitely helped create a more balanced discussion in the boardroom partly as a function of creating a large enough set of minds at the table to enable an engaged meeting rather than an internal chat and partly because of the objectivity he brought to the table.

Are you approaching your business differently in any way as a result of an insight from Matt? 

He helped refine the translation of strategy into action and define how resources should best be deployed.

Would you do it again? 

We are converts to the opportunity and are looking forward to welcoming another observer with a new eye being cast on our business.

Case Study 3

Board Observer: Nick Smith-Saville, Restructuring Analyst, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

My key aim was broadening my view of a business. As a function leader looking to further develop my career it was becoming more important for me to understand how various business functions come together to operate as one.

Did you gain what you were looking to achieve from the programme? 
Yes, the programme fully achieved my goals.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience? 

What pleasantly surprised me was how challenging the coaching sessions were. Heather and Richard both really pushed me to look inside myself and understand my motivations and question everything. On top of this they both had a very clear understanding of how to help me get the most from the process which was incredibly helpful.

What proved to be the most important thing for you to demonstrate to your line manager back in your workplace? 

The most important thing for me was being able to demonstrate that I could place my function within the constraints of the organisation and understand how to trade off competing priorities against available resources to allow the team to make the best decisions for the organisation as a whole.

Richard Stanton

NED coach for Nick Smith-Saville: Richard Stanton, cyber & systems security expert for public and UK Intelligence sector

My role was to support and challenge and to offer up different scenarios to make Nick consider his position and what advice he might offer in various circumstances, while also minimising any personal or commercial risks, given the unique position as a board apprentice.

How does this happen practically? 

During our regular meet ups, both Nick and I would agree what we wanted from the session and then keep the conversation free flow, although anchored to our agreed discussion points. The point being not too rigid in what we covered, but with a clear outcome in mind. We often ran overtime as the conversations usually covered a lot of ground.

Where and how did this focus help Nick? 

Nick was already highly experienced, but we helped to explore his motivations, approach and the parameters of this different role. We also focused on what he, and the board he was placed with, wanted to get from the programme and how best to achieve this.

Host Board: Business Advantage – Chris Turner, CEO & Founder 

As is often the case a fresh pair of eyes looks at situations and asks “Why? Why do it that way?” Their experience will often mean they will look at things differently and have a fresh perspective on issues, and suggest ideas that we perhaps had not thought about, or had considered but initially discarded. It is not until a different way at looking at the issue is suggested that the ideas are re-examined and, instead of being found wanting, they are found to have merit.  Nick also lead a call which in reality was a back-to-basics approach in some areas.  Nick’s experience of research and outsourcing was also helpful.

As a result of having  Nick on your board, did the dynamic change and, if so, in what way? 

Yes – in line with the above – we had someone joining with us who brought a different view, so we discussed some issues in a different way and re-examined what we were doing.  So often a different type of discussion and with another voice.

Are you approaching your business differently in any way as a result of an insight from Nick? 

We are looking at getting back to basics in some areas and considering outsourcing in others.  Nick was also very helpful in considering the future strategic direction of the business and looking at some of the options available to us and because he had direct experience of these options he was really helpful as a ‘sounding board’ on the way forward and appropriateness of services of others to help us.

Would you do it again? 

Yes absolutely – it was a very good experience, helped the management team, the company and we believe was helpful to Nick as well. A ’win-win’ – the basis of all good partnerships.

Case Study 2

Board Observer: Helen Lane, SVP Global Digital & Network Transformation, CHEP

Quite simply, I wanted to learn more about the role of an NED and gain experience of the inner workings of Boards.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience? 

So much!

I was initially surprised by how difficult it could be to avoid pace-setting or acting in a more ‘hands-on’ way but I gradually began to find the right style and approach to bring the team what they needed – which was fresh perspective, independence and a strategic outlook. My confidence was therefore built in the process as I realised that the core competencies of effective leadership and business management that I had developed over the years could be applied to any business at any stage of maturity, and I could add significant value to more Boards and executive teams than my own.

I also began to feel part of a team and met a great group of fantastic leaders too. I learned so much from the other Board members; their drive to deliver and their passion for staying true to their brand was inspirational, and has made me a better leader myself as a result.

What has proved  the key takeaway for you to demonstrate to your line manager back in your workplace?

The experience has been completely invaluable to me and has given me a breadth of perspective and business acumen that I could only find through an experience such as this. I feel privileged that my company, the team at my host board, Volcano Coffee Works, and the team at Boardroom Ready have provided me with such a unique and career-enhancing opportunity.

Board matchmaker for Helen Lane: Heather White, CEO of Boardroom Ready

Once I had taken a detailed brief from Helen on her goals, aims and ambitions, and the experience she was seeking from the Boardroom Ready programme, I set about looking for just the right board for her. Something that would work for her age, experience and personality.

Volcano Coffee Works is a young, innovative company, who believe in enabling people to grow, from their own staff to those they partner with. Helen has a real interest in innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.

With Helen’s expertise in large scale commercial business in supply chain, guiding design and delivery of customer-focused business strategies for major global corporates to drive organisational and cultural transformations, Helen was an ideal match for Volcano.  Their chair and founder, Emma is an entrepreneur with passion for her business, in environmentally sustainable and ethically traded coffee.

How has this experience helped Helen? 

One of the key benefits of the Boardroom Ready programme is that it allows the boardroom apprentice to trial a ‘hands-off’, strategic approach to providing board advice, in a safe environment.  Their confidence is built by offering insights and opinions based on their expertise and experience, and so it was with Helen.  Applying her leadership and management experience to a different environment, industry and company size demonstrated its immense value, and  – in her own words, ‘made me a better leader myself as a result’.

Host Board: Volcano Coffee Works – Emma Loisel, Co-Founder & Chair 

Having a professional of Helen’s calibre has given the Board an outstanding independent view.  This has helped drive clarity and focus.  Helen has a great sense of calm and her experience across other sectors has given us the opportunity to understand that all fast growing businesses face many of the same business challenges.

As a result of having  Helen on your board, did the dynamic change and, if so, in what way? 

Our Board has moved from more of an operational Board to one that looks more long term.  Helen has really helped us look at our business, see the wood for the trees and helped get us focused on more strategic, longer term challenges and opportunities ahead.

Are you approaching your business differently in any way as a result of an insight from Helen? 

We have lifted our heads and got a more long term strategic view.  Helen also quietly challenged us to be more ambitious with the business, whilst ensuring we held ourselves firmly to account for short and long term objectives.

Would you do it again? 

We will absolutely have another Observer on our Board.  The independent view we gained is something often underestimated.  Plus, working with the Boardroom Ready programme enables us to have bring in fresh thinking, with the skill sets we think will be of most value to our business over the next 12 months.

Case Study 1

Board Observer: Zoe Bailey, Chief Strategy Officer, BDO UK LLP

This question is simple to answer – I wanted to understand what it would mean to become a NED.  What would be expected of me, what it would feel like, what opportunities might be available to me and how to get started on my NED career. 

Did you gain what you were looking to achieve from the programme? 

Absolutely.  12 months after completing the programme I have been appointed in my very first NED role.  I am now 6 months into my role and, whilst I appreciate I am still learning, I am thoroughly enjoying being part of the fantastic Nelson Croom board and I am confident that this is the right path for my longer term career.

What surprised you  the most  about the board experience? 

How difficult it can be to ensure your independence and the mind-set that is required to achieve this.  I have a vast number of years’ experience in Operations and there can be a tendency to want to ‘help out’ but as a NED that is not always the best use of your skill set and time.  Through the 12 months programme, working very closely with my coach, I was able to gain a full understanding of the difference between being an executive board member and a NED.   

What has proved  the key takeaway for you to demonstrate to your line manager back in your workplace? 

Independent thinking, a more rounded appreciation of business (after getting under the skin of another company), an increased level of confidence in my own abilities. 

The Boardroom Ready has been a phenomenal experience and one that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone looking to embark on a NED career.  Hands-on experience, under the guidance of incredibly experienced professionals who are dedicated to helping you succeed.

NED coach for Zoe Bailey: Bryan Foss, Digital NED, Risk & Audit Chair

I’m involved in helping numerous and diverse execs develop onto boards including in NED roles. This programme is encouragingly unique in providing Zoe with a carefully matched ‘board apprentice’ opportunity right from the start. Everything she learns and applies is purposeful and rewarding.

What is the primary role of the coach? 

My role was to support Zoe to stretch herself to be a challenging and supportive independent director (so applying her strong executive skills in a different persona), while also minimising any personal or commercial risks.

How does this happen practically? 

I typically take a checkpoint before and sometimes after each planned board meeting or other event, to discuss aims, outcomes and readiness. This enables ‘just in time’ advice, support and introduction to relevant learning sources for each personal development need. In parallel, Heather and colleagues assist with CV, profile and networking development to match.

Where and how did this focus help Zoe? 

Zoe was already strong as an executive but this programme has clearly lifted her contact, confidence and communication style to board level across her NED placement firm, her own employer and their client companies. Zoe has since been offered a permanent NED role and has become more influential and promotable generally. Any short-term additional time pressure seemed very manageable and worthwhile!

Host Board: Nelson Croom – Alan Nelson, Managing Director 

Zoe has been especially useful in helping us to undertake a strategic review. She advised us on the appropriate process and facilitated a couple of strategy sessions. She combines experience and competence on the one hand with being egoless about the way she facilitates which was extremely effective. It was really useful to have someone there who had done it loads of times before and could reassure us when we had doubts about whether what we were doing would be useful. 

As a result of having  Zoe  on your board, did the dynamic change and if so, in what way? 

She has pulled the conversation a bit across into strategy. The other two non-execs are great, but they are both accountants, so while they are great from a governance perspective, and do engage with the strategy, that is not their core expertise. 

Are you approaching your business differently in any way as a result of an insight from Zoe? 

We have greater clarity about the direction. There is a sense of purpose that has reached beyond the Board. 

Would you do it again? 

Yes, we’d do it again. I don’t see what there is to lose and, in our case, there was lots to gain. Whether that was the process or just Zoe, I don’t know!