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Chairman’s View

Challenges and rewards

Charles Llewellyn has amassed three decades of experience as a chief executive, business coach and non-executive director. Here, he talks about the challenges and rewards he enjoys as a Vistage chair and business leader.

object, you do your best to leave your business troubles outside.”

So who does Charles turn to, to re-energise and motivate him?

Charles Llewellyn (second from left) Vistage Chairman London V 15 and Key 208, since 1997 – with his members of V 15

Charles has been a chair for 14 years, and has fi rm ideas on the skills and attributes that make this role a success.

“In the meetings, assertiveness, a sense of humour, high energy levels and the ability to use the room in the same way an actor commands a stage. For one-to-ones, you need the ability to get members to trust you fully with their confi dence. “It’s important that chairs are disciplined, as our members, quite rightly, expect us to challenge ourselves in the same way that we challenge them.” London-based Charles enjoys many high-powered roles. The founder and director of leadership coaching company Drayton Business Services, he is also a director of Zenith Bank UK Ltd and an executive chairman of G-Nostics, a genetic diagnostic company spun out of Oxford University. Charles was fi rst introduced to Vistage in the early 1990s. He was a Vistage member for 12 months before becoming a chair.

He celebrates his members’ successes wholeheartedly and has an impressive portfolio of stories. They include one member selling his company for hundreds of millions of pounds and another who competed in, and won, an MBO against his own CEO..

As a champion of work/life balance - and with forecasts of a double dip recession - Charles urges bosses to pay even greater attention to their health and stress levels. He says, “It’s crucial for leaders to balance their work and home lives, and have separate strategies for each. Vistage speaker Marcus Child suggests imagining that your house key is golden - and that every time you open the door with this precious

Our members, quite rightly expect us to challenge ourselves in the same way that we challenge them

1. In the current climate, don’t sell unless there are compelling reasons to do so

2. Prepare your business for sale two to three years in advance. You can’t just dump a company out there - it has to be groomed, to boost its desirability for prospective buyers

3. Get yourself into the mindset of the potential buyer(s) and understand their needs, fi rst and foremost. Why would they want to buy your business?

4. Don’t underestimate the amount of your time this process will require and start to delegate roles and specifi c value creation projects accordingly

5. Enlist the best independent advisors to work with you in the lead up to, during and after the sale. Talk to experienced people in the Vistage community, such as Jo Haigh and David Young

6. Determine if you have the right management team, who can run the

“I’ve had a series of mentors – many of whom appeared by chance. I spent 14 years as an offi cer in the Royal Navy, which provided excellent mentors throughout all stages of training and development. I took this for granted at the time, but I know now it was done by design. “In my subsequent business life, I have been exceptionally lucky to have a series of wonderful mentors. Now, I fi nd that I get help from a number of valued sources - my fellow Vistage chairs, my members, one or two of our speakers, and others whom I can approach for advice. For all that I count myself extraordinarily fortunate.”

Charles’ top 10 tips on exit strategies

business on an ongoing basis, particularly if the team is of interest to a buyer

7. Ensure you have a robust business plan, which shows how value will be established or justifi ed

8. Think through and anticipate any potential confl icts with shareholders – this can be particularly relevant in MBOs, where the interests of the management and venture capitalists may be polarised

9. Stay focused throughout and avoid emotional reactions. Once you have embarked on this process, never take your eye off the ball, particularly during the fi nal negotiations. Be realistic – there will be compromises

10. Plan thoroughly for your retirement or the next stage in your life. How are you going to spend your time? Some former CEOs have been so bored they have bought their old companies back. Would you feel unfulfi lled without a business interest?

Member Bulletin | Summer 2010 7

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