At our Non-Executive Director Conference on 19th September, we had Jenny Ellery from Grove Park Design acting as reporter for the day so we can provide insights back to those interested.
Here's what she had to say...
MorePeople’s most recent event, championing the role of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) achieved what it set out to do and did so in style.
“Many, many little diamonds” was how one attendee, Paul Barber of Root and Branch Consulting described the talks and presentations.
What surprised me most, however, was everyone’s response when the speakers and Q&A session finished and it was time for drinks and nibbles. Nobody moved. At corporate events, this is usually when people make a beeline for the bar. Instead, everyone turned to their neighbour and struck up a conversation – the speakers had clearly sparked a lot of ideas, and discussion points and had really got people thinking. This is not something you see every day.
A corporate event with a difference
But if I’m honest, this event felt different right from the get-go. As soon as guests started to arrive, there was a real buzz about the place. The speakers were in amongst the crowd, chatting to people, they were friendly and welcoming and together with the MorePeople team’s energy, their openness set the right tone for the event.
The event’s focus was also very specific and targeted only senior executives working in the food, fresh produce, agriculture and horticulture industries, MorePeople's specialisms. Guests therefore came with a shared desire to find out more about NEDs and, being amongst industry leaders, knew they would be able to chew the fat with others in their field. It was undoubtedly a great networking opportunity as well as a chance to get to grips with hiring a NED or becoming one yourself.
Industry big hitters give real insight
The speakers were introduced by Barclays Business Banking’s Head of Agriculture, Adam White and he kept everyone moving along swiftly and smoothly. First up was the highly anticipated talk from ex Co-Op CEO, Steve Murrells, now CEO of Hilton Food Group who shared his thoughts via video.
Each speaker brought their own invaluable insights on the world of Non-Executive Directors, whether it was because they held that position themselves or because they had hired one who had helped them transform their business. From start-up co-founder Charlie Guy of LettUs Grow to the Exec Chairman of his family farm, William Burgess, from Jacqui Green, Coach and Clean Energy Consultant at Viridis Associates to Chairman of Inga Group, Neil Sanderson, their personalities and presentation styles could not have been more different. But there was a clear sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among them and a shared passion for a shared belief in the real value of NEDs.
I spoke briefly to the Former Head of Organic Policy and Environmentally Friendly Farming at DEFRA, Kathlene Kelliher who was in the audience. She described the event as “really thoughtful and particularly useful as I am looking to become a Non-Executive Director myself.” I saw her later talking to another lady I knew wanted to become a NED, it was just that kind of event.
The realities of life as a NED
Senior Advisor at the Non-Executive Directors’ Association (NEDA), Barry Gamble presented a very clear picture of what a NED can bring to the party, while Phil Cookson, Partner at Roythornes Solicitors romped through the legal position and potential pitfalls of the role. His obvious experience in the field and convivial style meant he kept it clear, concise and to the point – not something you often associate with those in the legal profession!
And then it was time for questions. It’s a rare thing to have a Q&A session where you have more questions than you can get to in the time. But that’s what happened. The audience was clearly inspired by what they had heard, engaged and hungry for more. And with such an experienced group of people in front of you, ready to share their advice, who wouldn’t take the opportunity to get as much information as possible?
Want to know more about being or hiring a NED? MorePeople are here to help
However, attendees were not just positive about the speakers and what they had learned. I caught up with Elliot Porter who runs his family business, Fresh Service Limited. Yes, what William Burgess had said about his own experiences at his family-run farm had resonated but it was his enthusiasm for Guy Moreton and MorePeople that struck me most. He had recently himself taken on a NED with the help of Guy. “I came to Guy and MorePeople because I didn’t know how it all worked. What do I do? How much do I pay them? Guy coached me through the whole process.”
It was clear that everyone involved in the event has a lot of experience when it comes to the role of a Non-Executive Director. And if you’re interested in finding a NED for your business or in becoming one yourself, I know that Guy would love to hear from you.