Our latest Consumer/Retail Breakfast with Martin Newman

We recently hosted a well-attended breakfast on the theme of customer experience and concluded that, for consumer-facing industries, the web has changed EVERYTHING. Back in the 1990s, retail was about location, location, location. Now it is about any time, any place, anywhere. Power is in the hands of the consumer.

Technology is the conduit and enabler – not the starting point. We keep hearing about ‘digital transformation’, but what we are really facing is customer-centric transformation.
Businesses need to be aware that brand is not the most important thing to customers – convenience is. The key to the success of disruptors, like Uber or Metro Bank, is their customer-first approach. With technology enabling the emergence of many more such competitors, building customer loyalty is vital. ROI shouldn’t just be about investment, it needs to be about ‘return on involvement’. Engaged customers are advocates who attract other customers; they buy more frequently and are more loyal, therefore more profitable: according to Harvard Business Review, a five per cent increase in customer retention converts to a 25-95 per cent increase in profit.

Consequently, businesses should consider their structure around customers not channels. Most consumer and retail businesses are still operating in siloed channels. Separate digital and instore teams are never going to deliver the integrated experience that the mobile-savvy customer wants. To drive change, organisations need to consider new executive roles. These include a chief customer officer with a mandate to define and deliver ‘what we need to do’ to achieve the new customer-facing approach; a change agent to answer the ‘how we need to do it’ question; and a chief insight officer to interpret data and turn it into actionable insights. We are also witnessing the creation of a cross-functional ‘customer enablement team’. This is a steering group made up of directors and functional heads, but also colleagues across the business to ensure that the new customer-first approach is being delivered within core operational areas. Shadow boards made up of digital natives can also prove highly effective in helping businesses use technology to maximise customer experience.

If you would like to discuss these issues in more detail, please contact us for an initial, confidential conversation: Lucie Shaw, lucie.shaw@normanbroadbent.com
Norman Broadbent hosts regular breakfast briefings with thought leaders. If you are interested in attending future events, contact Sian Burke, sian.burke@normanbroadbent.com

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Getting Fit for Purpose: Building Your Board

The Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA) and the Non-Executive Directors’ Association (NEDA) released a joint paper in November 2018. It made for interesting reading from a number of perspectives. As a Professional Services firm with around 40-years’ Board-level Executive Search experience, and having worked with exceptional executive and non-executive leaders, we are always interested in whether boards understand the importance of good governance around NED recruitment, the many tensions to consider when making changes, and the risks they must mitigate when choosing a new board member.

The paper highlights a change in NED recruitment practices over recent years. According to QCA/NEDA research, there has been an increase in the use of specialist recruiters and Executive Search firms. This is a shift away from the traditional method of hiring individuals known to the company, its chair, or a fellow board member. So why is this?

  • There are only a finite number of ‘available’, capable, not ‘over-boarded’, relevant people with PLC experience. Those candidates who meet the above criteria then have to be interested in the opportunity.
  • The owners of small-to-mid-sized quoted companies don’t always know who these people are as they are busy running their own businesses!
  • Diversity of thought is becoming increasingly important. If an owner and/or fellow board members tap into their own limited networks, they will invariably recruit to type. As boards increasingly need to challenge each other and management, ‘group-think’ is not the best way forward.
  • The increasing checks/balances, legislation, and the desire on the part of the shareholders for boards to be truly independent.
  • The need to ‘benchmark’ and evidence to shareholders that a thorough search of all available talent has been undertaken, and that the best, most relevant, available candidate has been selected following a rigorous, well-governed process.
  • The recognition – by both the company and NED – of the importance of having a specialist Search Consultant acting as a ‘high-touch’ intermediary.

The factors above are increasingly forcing owners/senior management to use respected, well-networked, and established specialist search firms who can evidence a strong process and good governance.

The change in recruitment process should attract a wider, more diverse range of experienced NED talent. With the addition of new NED talent, however, there is often a mismatch between what the owners/senior management expect from their board and vice-versa. This mismatch can often occur in small-to-mid-size public companies where the founder or founding family may be new to the world of executive leadership and, entrepreneurial by nature, will be used to controlling every aspect of the business. Whilst this ability is often their strong suit, it can interfere with the search as they may project their expectations onto the recruitment process.

The NED, on the other hand, because of changes in legislation, good governance, the need for independence, and shareholder demands, often has a very different set of expectations.

Whilst a specialist board search consultant can’t solve all the tensions that inevitably come from these changing expectations, they can occupy a third, more neutral space. An experienced executive search firm will carefully balance the NED perspective with that of an ambitious, under-pressure, business leader.

Norman Broadbent’s Board Practice has a 40-year heritage. We know how the boardroom works, the legislative changes affecting quoted companies, the need for stronger governance, growing shareholder expectations, a greater understanding of directors’ responsibilities, and an awareness of reputational risk. This acute understanding drives us to help find bespoke solutions that work for both NEDs and senior leadership teams.

If you would like to learn more about our Board Practice or have a discussion about a particular assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Tim Hammett, Managing Partner, for an initial confidential discussion.

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Giving the Board a nudge … A Case Study: Board Dynamics and Nudge Theory

Nudge Theory: A concept in behavioural science, political theory and behavioural economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals

The popularity of Nudge Theory over the last ten years has seen it applied to areas as diverse as transport, sport, and consumer behaviour. In our experience, the fundamental applications of Nudge Theory, and the realities of chairing a board, have much in common. The principle of Board Dynamics is itself well developed. Due to the limited number of meetings and occupancy being based on experience and insight, most board management is under the radar and at the level of nudging. Put simply, management happens indirectly through suggesting, shaping, lobbying, influencing, persuading etc.

So can you really give a board ‘a nudge’?

Based on our experience you can.

Recently, a mid-sized client asked us to examine the dynamics of their own board. As part of this exercise, we wanted to see if it was possible to increase the member’s receptivity to being ‘nudged’. As much of our consulting work is with executive teams and senior professionals of larger corporates, we set out to understand whether there are any transferable lessons or methods that could shed some light on individual and collective board behaviour in the context of a smaller company. To do this, we devised a three-factor approach highlighting 21 behavioural issues the chair could discuss to enhance board dynamics. The three factors were:

  • Motivation: Taking responsibility for seven key behaviours known to drive board effectiveness
  • Expertise: Ensuring transferable skills are applied to the seven behaviours
  • Awareness and style: Addressing the seven core issues at play when people try to work together

Adopting a conventional approach to our Board Practice work, Norman Broadbent Consulting collected data on the 21 behavioural issues through interviews and observations conducted in a way commensurate with accepted, well-established board evaluation methods.

There were three significant outcomes and attention was focussed collectively on a few key behavioural issues that the board could address together. The Chair was able to use the outcomes to realign individual and overall commitment to effective board behaviours, and the application of our recommended approach was seen as proportionate, sensible and appropriate. It thereby set the agenda for future constructive ‘nudging’ by the chair.

If you would like to learn more about Board Effectiveness or have a discussion about the Consulting Services we offer at Board and C-Suite level, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Stephen Sloan and Tim Hammett for an initial confidential discussion.

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Norman Broadbent: One of the Industry’s best-kept secrets?

“I honestly think that the Norman Broadbent Group of today is one of the best-kept secrets in our industry … The level of support they give their Consultants compared to other firms is significantly better …  I still have moments when even I am taken aback by the transformation …” 

Steve Salter, Senior Talent Advisor

It has been nearly three years since Mike Brennan, Norman Broadbent’s Group CEO, invited me to join him on a journey to help turn around this iconic British brand: once known solely for its Executive Search and Board Practices, and one that, when we walked through the door, dare I say, had lost its way.

Fast forward nearly three years: what a difference. To sum it up in one word: relevant. Relevant to our clients, relevant to the Talent we work with, and relevant to our hard-working colleagues.

As Senior Talent Adviser, I spend most of my time talking to great people from across the industry. Most conversations start the same: what do you know about Norman Broadbent? I don’t think I have ever spoken to anyone who didn’t know our name, with almost everyone having a similar perception: “a once great Executive Search firm that sadly lost its way.” I always enjoy this part of the conversation as I can talk them through our journey to date, outlining what the Norman Broadbent Group looks like today across its five complementary service lines: Leadership and Board Search; Leadership Assessment & Consulting; Executive-Level Solutions, focussing on ‘Next Generation Talent’ and ‘Future Leaders’; Interim Executive Management; and world-class Research & Insight – all working as one unified business to the benefit of clients.

So give me five minutes of your time and the opportunity to talk you through where we are today, and where we are heading. More importantly, let me outline the platform we can offer to support you in providing your clients and candidates with an array of complementary services and solutions, and ultimately help you win and execute more work.

This is why I think the Norman Broadbent Group is one of the best-kept secrets in our industry. If you’d like to find out more about the opportunities we offer recruitment professionals and learn more about our Group and platform for success, please do not hesitate to contact me, Steve Salter, for an initial confidential discussion.

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