Latest news from Directorbank

11 November 2021

Leadership according to Ted Lasso


A big hit with the Directorbank team, Ted Lasso – the lead character in this witty Apple TV series – is an American football coach hired to coach an English Premier League football team.

Here is a precis of Ted’s 10 rules of management.

“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it all wrong.”
Leadership is full of challenges, whether taking risks, adapting to change or handling confrontation. Ted, like all good leaders, pushes his boundaries and accepts discomfort as part of the growth journey.

“Gotta have a 10 second memory. Be a goldfish!”
Dwelling on mistakes is unproductive and destructive. As Ted says, we should accept our mistakes, learn from them and move on … quickly.

“Every disadvantage has its advantage.”
He knows little about the football, or England for that matter. Yet he successfully draws on his wealth of situational understanding to drive innovative thinking, team rapport and performance.

“There’s two buttons I never like to use. That’s panic and snooze.”
Believing panic to be counter-productive, Ted often takes a breath, steps back, and resets his mind before carrying on. You’ll never see him snoozing either. He’s passionate, alert and energetic in his quest to drive the club to greater heights.

“I think that you might be so sure that you’re one in a million, that sometimes you forget that out there you’re just one in 11.”
Ted reminds his arrogant ‘star’ player of the importance of team cohesion. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

A great advocate of the power of positive thinking, Ted boldly displays ‘BELIEVE’ above his office door. He refers to it regularly to focus his players – to instil a sense of hope, to dampen negativity, and to motivate them to perform their best.

“Be curious, not judgmental.”
Ted cites this Walt Whitman quote during a darts contest. People often rush to judge. They forget to question or see the bigger picture which stifles growth and effective decision-making. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes.

“I suppose the best brand is being yourself.”
Ted is real, honest and accountable. He knows his weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and isn’t afraid to ask for help. As such, he creates a deeper connection with his players and inspires trust, loyalty, and respect.

“But hey, I shouldn’t bring an umbrella to a brainstorm.”
Ted is all for the power of collective thinking and the value that different perspectives can bring. He is also comfortable and confident enough in his role to stand by his decisions when necessary.

“As the man once said, the harder you work the luckier you get.”
Crediting the American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, Ted is a firm believer that good ideas and outcomes stem from hard graft, focus and discipline.

Images: Apple TV+

2 August 2021

Exit News

Congratulations to FPE Capital on the sale of TNP to Providence Equity Partners-backed Node4, a leading cloud-led Managed Services Provider.

FPE Capital acquired the leading Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partner back in 2018 and subsequently approached Directorbank’s George Heppenstall to source an experienced CFO to support the execution of TNP’s successful growth strategy. George placed Chris Powell in the role, a KPMG-qualified Chartered Accountant with significant sector and PE experience, including multiple successful exit processes.

Since FPE’s acquisition, and through significant investment in the team, product and sales capability, TNP has driven over 400% growth in profitability. The business has 230 employees, almost 40,000 user licenses under its care and nearly 550 customers.

TNP’s track record, skill set and experience will significantly enhance Node4’s end-to-end managed services portfolio and forms an important part of their ongoing growth strategy. We wish them all the very best with the next stage of their exciting journey.

20 July 2021

CEO Circle Event

BUILDING YOUR BOARD: 3 pieces of advice from All Together’s latest CEO CIRCLE event –

Inspired by Huel founder Julian Hearn’s recent blog post – ‘6 Tips for Early Boardroom Success’, All Together’s latest CEO Circle discussed the opportunities and challenges of building a board.
Directorbank’s George Heppenstall was invited to co-host the event and we are pleased to share a write up of the key discussion points below.

In Julian’s blog he explains just how important the early assembly of a productive board had been for his business, offering impartial, expert advice where otherwise he might have been alone. With so many of All Together’s CEO community wondering if the same might be true for them, a CEO Circle event was held to demystify the process of building a board.

1. Make your Chair the first person you call

Among those at the virtual table, few had hired board positions in their business before, so it was session host Christine Cross, serial chair and All Together Volunteer Advisor, who imparted the opening piece of advice: ‘Your Chair should be the first person you call when there’s trouble or when there’s something to celebrate.’

A good Chair will likely have deep experience running enterprises of all sizes, understanding the challenges and pitfalls leaders can suffer. They should be familiar with your business, working closely enough with you to be able to provide context to a situation, not just content, as a less involved advisor or mentor might. To Chris, the smaller the business, the closer the relationship between a Chair and the founders or CEO can be, however you must ensure they impart their experiences without being seen to take control.

For those seeking advice around non-execs, George Heppenstall, director at executive-level search firm Directorbank and a partner of All Together, advised that these roles were similar to Chair positions, although a little further removed. They offer valuable alternative perspectives, but won’t have the same level of involvement or responsibility for your business as Chairs, who shoulder a greater level of responsibility and commitment to the business.

2. Build your board early

As the conversation shifted to a question of ‘when,’ our experts echoed Julian Hearn’s advice that bringing a board together as soon as possible was likely to benefit your business. A tip for smaller companies was to start potential relationships informally at first, perhaps as an advisor, graduating to formal positions once it had been proven to work and a relationship built.

One CEO raised a simple ‘why?’ at this point. Why would they need a board when they had a great team and advisors they could turn to if needed? Here, our experts were unanimous in advising that there is a difference between the advice and support you get from advisors, who have no formal tie to your business, and board directors who share and shoulder responsibility for the company’s wellbeing.

Every leader of a management team will have their weaknesses, and each business will have an Achilles heel. If you think yours doesn’t, then perhaps you need to look harder. Being able to bring someone in with experience to plug those gaps and add value should be a no-brainer, if it’s feasible. It is often said that being a CEO can be a lonely job, but All Together’s Volunteer Advisors are deliberately time-limited (enabling them to help as many companies as possible). Having a board member you can open up to and trust would be a valuable long-term remedy.

One CEO demonstrated this in practical terms, explaining that despite having had a fantastic mentor they were grateful for, they realised they needed more support in specific areas to match an ambitious growth plan. They found someone with the experience they were lacking and hired them in a non-exec director position. Despite this being a recent change, the founder was keen to stress the positive impact this had already had on their business.

3. Like any hire, work out what you need first

For the third piece of advice, George was keen to stress the importance of understanding your desired outcomes from hiring a board member. What do you need from a potential hire? Where are you lacking in expertise? Where do you want the business to be in the future and what kind of person could help you achieve that? These kinds of questions are important and worth discussing honestly, both with yourself and any potential board-level hire.

The group were keen to ask how you might go about finding the right Chair or NED once you knew what you were looking for. Some had used LinkedIn to find their NED, saying that whilst this had been successful for them, it had been a long process which might easily have had a different outcome. An alternative route is to ask your investors for people they would recommend – your investors at least understand your business and can connect you with people they know could work. Finally, the robust solution would be to seek the services of a professional search firm, like Directorbank. While this would incur additional costs, you can be confident of a thorough process, as well as hands on support to help you think through exactly what it is you need. The over-riding advice here was that just sticking to your own network might not be the answer to finding those with skills and experiences different to your own.

How to pay NEDs or Chairs was one of the most commonly asked questions in the session. Our experts agreed that, unfortunately, there was no specific piece of advice to give here, except to recognise that lots of Chairs and NEDs will want different things. Some will only get involved in high growth businesses where they can take equity, while others prefer not to take equity (to remain truly independent). How much is then paid varies from person to person, but one piece of guidance unanimously agreed upon was that SMEs should never pay more than they can afford. This will put undue pressure on your business and potentially cause tension in the new relationship.

Despite being a short session, the CEO Circle event on Building a Board was full of practical advice. Clarifying what you want from your board, building it early and then treating your Chair as your closest ally will form the basis of a great team, and will undoubtedly leave you as a CEO feeling less alone.

Thanks must go to the team of hosts for delivering such an insightful event, as well as the CEO guests who shared their experiences, and finally to Julian Hearn, who’s wise words: ‘never be the smartest one in the room’ form the foundation of so many brilliant boardrooms.

14 June 2021

Exit News: Congratulations to HANNOVER Finanz on the sale of software business Corporate Planning AG to proALPHA

Congratulations to HANNOVER Finanz on the sale of software business Corporate Planning AG to proALPHA, an ERP software provider for medium-sized companies in the German market. 

The exit marks the end of a successful 4-year investment for HANNOVER Finanz who backed the MBI of the enterprise software specialist in 2017.

Throughout the investment period, Corporate Planning AG has gone from strength to strength, improving its internal structures, processes and systems, building its cloud capability, expanding its direct and indirect sales channels, and pursuing a clear inorganic growth strategy. Notably, it acquired Berlin-based reporting specialist Hi Chart in 2020.

Directorbank is pleased to have played a part in this success story by placing Jürgen Brand as Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Corporate Planning at the time of the original investment. Jürgen is a deeply experienced individual having been through a similar journey in his former role at proALPHA. He was instrumental in appointing a strong CEO for the business early on whom he then worked closely with as sparring partner throughout the whole growth journey. 

Founded in Hamburg in 1989, Corporate Planning AG is a leading provider of corporate performance management (CPM) software to mid-cap businesses in the German-speaking markets, with a specific focus on operational planning, integrated financial and success planning products. In addition to its headquarters in Hamburg, the business operates nine other locations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as well as having representation in the UK and the Netherlands.

For more information, please contact:

Dorothea Kronenberghs
Executive Director Europe

T: +49 69 719 18 29 0