Ed in the Hot Seat

As I mentioned last week, it’s now a year since The Alternative Board (York) was born. Over the past 12 months it’s been my role to ask questions – sometimes awkward, but hopefully always helpful. But this week the tables are turned. One of my Board members is a freelance writer & journalist – for once, I’m answering the questions.

So, Ed, there you were, safe and warm, wrapped in the corporate blanket – why did you decide to run your own business?

There were three reasons really. I looked at friends I’d met on my MBA course who’d left the corporate world to start on their own. I admired them, and I suppose I became slightly envious that they had much more control over their lives than I did. And I wanted to test myself – and running your own business these days is about as big a test as there is. I didn’t want to have any regrets either. I didn’t want to look back and think, ‘If only…’ And then you reach a stage where you think, ‘Well, if I don’t do it now.’

So it was a work/life balance decision?

Probably 50%. The rest was wanting to test myself. When I was at Nestle my friends knew me as “Ed that we don’t see very often.” Then I moved to a printing company and suddenly I was in the North East every day of the week. I didn’t want to be the guy with a great job but no friends, someone who never saw his wife and children. That’s not what life’s about.

When you decided to work for yourself, what sort of job did you see yourself doing?

To begin with I wasn’t sure – although I knew it would be some sort of consulting work

Was it love at first sight with TAB?

Pretty much. When I met the people involved in running the UK side they struck me as being extremely credible and capable. And just as importantly, nice people to work with. The other thing was that when I saw the TAB concept I immediately “got it.” I knew it was a business I could be really passionate about, that I could believe in. That factor was absolutely crucial for me

So 12 months down the line, do you believe in it just as much?

 No – a lot more

How did Dav react to all this?

She’s been fantastically supportive. I mean obviously she had worries about security. Two children, a mortgage, commitments – but at the same time she knew I wasn’t satisfied.

And what about your boys? What do they think Dad does?

Well, Rory’s five so he doesn’t have a clue. Dan’s eight and he thinks I drink coffee and talk to people. He’s got this idea that I help people at work. Hopefully he’s right!

Twelve months in, what’s surprised you most about running your own business?

 No question. When you’re working for yourself the lows are lower, the highs are higher. When I was working for Nestle I’d think “yep, I’ve had a pretty good day.” But never once did I dance round my office.

So a year from now – and five years from now – where do you see TAB York?

A year from now it will be more of the same, although hopefully by then I’ll have been able to bring someone in to help me. Still working hard, still building up my good name. Five years on? I’d like to think the business model will be running very smoothly – we’ll be focused on really adding significant value to members’ businesses by then and I’d like to think several members will have made giant strides forward.

What’s been the best thing about the past year?

Well, there are four boards up and running now – that’s great. What’s even better is that I’m working with some truly remarkable people. They’re forward looking, positive, motivated, amusing – and all in the face of the worst recession we’ve had in living memory. And I’d like to think there are a few board members where TAB has really made a difference – put them in control of their businesses, not the other way round.

And the worst?

Oh, without a doubt it’s when someone doesn’t join a board and I just know they’d get so much benefit from it. That’s not just missing a sales number – it’s far more important than that. It’s someone being short-sighted about their own business. That upsets me – it’s really frustrating.

Last question. Have you ever turned into Lord Sugar and told a board member, “You’re fired…”

No – but there have been some I haven’t pursued, including a few who would have signed up. I just didn’t think they were right, and I’ll never take someone on just for the sake of the numbers. If they’re not the right person, if they won’t contribute and gel with the other board members I’m not going to do it. I’ll never dilute the quality of a board.

Thanks, Ed. Back to the normal blog next week?

Absolutely. Seeing as England are about to thrash Australia I thought I’d look at the role of the captain in sport – and see how it compares to running a business…



  1. Justin Hyam · November 12, 2010

    Morning Ed,

    Interesting interview, and congratulations on your first year. I look forward to catching up with you and raising a glass to a 2nd successful year. Needless to say, I can’t wait for next weeks blog.


  2. Julian Smith · November 14, 2010

    Hi Ed

    Absolutely sounds like my first 9 months! I share the same sentiments about the ‘short sighted’ ones. So frustrating. Congrats on the first year. Here’s to your undoubted success in year 2!

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