I recently became a chartered director (CDir) with the Institute of Directors and thought that I would share my thinking for doing so along with an overview of what it means to my day to day job at BSSEC.
BSSEC is a commercial energy efficiency consultancy operating in the business to business (B2B) arena. BSSEC trades in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe working for FT 100 type companies helping them to reduce their energy costs and carbon emissions that lead to climate change. BSSEC is an SME with a turnover of £750k and employing 10 staff. I have personally led the organisation as the founding MD and more recently as Executive Chairman. I am, by profession and background, a Chartered Building Services Engineer with the IET and CIBSE.
At BSSEC we aspire at all levels to be the best and to offer the best advice and service levels that we possibly can to our clients. In the past we have focused heavily on technical solutions and aligned our training to this goal. However, as we have grown as a business in terms of turnover and in terms of maturity, I began to understand that our excellence needs to extend to the top of the company and its direction, leadership and governance.
With this realisation in mind, I joined the IoD’s chartered director programme. The programme is structured in that the candidate must complete a certificate in company direction, then a diploma in company direction and finally undertake a professional competence review. It took me just over a year to complete this process.
The certificate, based on an accelerated programme, lasted 5 days and included the following key modules;
- The company director and governance
- The company director and finance
- The company director and strategy
- The company director and leadership
The course confirmed and bettered my knowledge in the finance and leadership modules, but opened my eyes widely in the governance and strategy modules. Following the course I ran a strategic review of the business – the key output was a new governance structure including appointing a new MD and establishing the board of directors with non-executive directors in finance and marketing.
The next step was the 3 day diploma which comprised of team workshops on a range of themes from board presentations, managing difficult situations, crisis planning, stakeholder engagement, risk management and the like. I met very many truly inspirational people on this course and learnt a huge amount from others as well as the lecturers. My highlight was when one of my course colleagues invited me to lead a strategic review of their organisation which I have now completed and which was well received.
The final step was the professional competence review. This required a reflection of my 11 years’ experience as a company director, understanding what had gone well and what had not gone so well during this period and what lessons I learnt. This reflection showed me that it is in our and others failings that we truly learn and it is at this point that we are given the opportunity to improve, becoming better and stronger. Thankfully the good experiences outweighed the negative and I passed.
Since becoming a chartered director I have changed my approach in how I lead the board and how we interact with our stakeholders. I have learnt that the board must be a place of challenge and cohesion in order for it to become a highly performing board.
So what is next now that I have become a chartered director? Well in terms of BSSEC we are improving our business offering by extending our value chain through joint ventures with organisations that operate in our clients’ supply chains. We will do more work with our marketing partner to raise our profile and brand over the coming year. We are also moving to the historic city of Bath, a world heritage site, as not only is it a nice place to do business but the business community is right for us with university partners, an excellent employee pool and excellent potential business partners in sustainability.
Personally I have realised what a privilege it is to assist other boards and I hope to repeat my work with other boards in providing support like strategic reviews and perhaps offer my services as a non-executive director.
My final word is that of a recommendation of the chartered director process, as in my case it has been very beneficial.