06/07/2011

Lonely at the top? Join the club...

By Gerard Burke, Founder and MD, Your Business Your Future

It can be lonely at the top, even with a fantastic management team and a supportive spouse, as Chris Hall, co-owner of Fencor Packaging, has discovered. He tells us how the Better Business Club has provided an invaluable sounding board for some of the most difficult business decisions he’s ever had to make.

After completing a programme that we ran three years ago, Chris Hall, founder of Easypack (now part of Fencor Packaging Group), felt motivated, confident and ready to take the business to the next level. Prior to him participating in the programme, Chris’s business was actually three separate businesses: Easypack (Corrugated Cases) Ltd, Point of Purchase Corrugated Displays Ltd and the print and packaging business, Rapide Ltd. During the programme, it became apparent that amalgamating these separate entities into one group, with an annual turnover of £5 million, would result in a more competitive, cost-efficient and differentiated proposition. So, Chris was eager to implement this change.


A few months down the line, Chris realised he was missing the support he had come to rely on from his fellow programme participants and tutors. “I realised that I was missing the interaction with other like-minded business owners and the support I had received in terms of guidance on strategy and ideas for business growth,” he says.

This prompted him to join the Better Business Club, a group which provides a forum for meeting with other business owners and sharing, in confidence, challenges, opportunities and even doubts and fears they can’t always discuss easily with people within the business or sometimes even with family members.

Better Business Club groups are run in a variety of locations and meet either ten or six times a year plus an equal number of one-to-one meetings between the group facilitator and each member. Members share their business experiences and issues with their group and in return, get unbiased support and challenge.

Since joining the Better Business Club, Chris and Easypack have been through some massive changes. Easypack merged with a larger competitor, creating a company – Fencor Packaging - with a total turnover of £15m. On a personal level, Chris has become father to two children, which has made him determined to strike a better work-life balance and spend less time worrying about the business.

Chris says that his monthly meetings with other Better Business Club members have been instrumental in shaping and sense-checking these decisions. “The group has allowed me to bounce ideas off like-minded people who have no vested interest or involvement in the company and helped reassure me that the moves I’m making are the right ones,” he says.

You might question how much help an outsider can be when making such difficult and situation-specific decisions. According to Chris, it is precisely because members of the Better Business Club come from a range of industries and background that it works so well. “People within the industry are often afraid to ask what they think might be seen as ‘silly questions’ because they’re worried it will make them look foolish. At the Club, no questions are daft questions and I’ve found that this has challenged me in my decision making and helped me think through and justify decisions. Also, although I can bounce some things off people in the business, there are issues that are too confidential. For example, some financial matters are too sensitive to be discussed with non-shareholders.”

Chris says group discussions confirmed that a merger was the right way to go in a difficult and crowded marketplace as well as to achieve his personal goals of greater financial security and a better work-life balance. “Merging with another packaging firm has given us a stronger market position and allowed us to take advantage of economies of scale. I have a taken a significant shareholding in the enlarged group whilst retaining the freehold in a separate property company, giving my family more financial security,” he says.

Merging with a larger company has also meant he has support from other key directors and shareholders, affording him more time with his family and less worrying about work. “[i[I’ve now got all the support I need within the business, and, thanks to the Club, a fantastic network of external advisors I know I can count on to give me impartial, honest and commercially-sound advice that I can’t get anywhere else[/i].”

To find out more about the club visit: Better Business Club.

Watch the video below featuring Gerard Burke of Your Business Your Future, discussing the 7 pillars of a better business.

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Create a better future for your business and yourself! Fresh Business Thinking LIVE! at Cass Business School is a one day event specifically designed for ambitious entrepreneurs and owner managers. Gerard Burke of Your Business Your Future, will introduce a range of successful entrepreneurs who will share their experiences of building the 7 Pillars of a Better Business — the seven characteristics which seem to distinguish those businesses which consistently perform better than the average.

To book for the event on 7th September, click here