Case Study: Simon Dixon and Adrian Lingard on the benefits of the Exceptional NED Programme

Ade Li ngard and Simon Dixon

Simon Dixon, founder of Hatmill supply chain and logistics experts, and Adrian Lingard, from North Peak Consulting, talk about their experience of Leeds University Business School’s Exceptional Non-Executive (NED) programme.

Simon Dixon set up Hatmill in 2009 and following a period of consistent growth in client numbers, team members and turnover, the company entered a process of change with plans to make Hatmill employee-owned to maintain and build on its unique culture. Simon reached out to Leeds University Business School to explore how the company could benefit from a NED placement.

The Exceptional NED programme is ideal for those who have not yet undertaken a NED role or who are in the early stages of the transition. It has been uniquely designed to enable business executives to gain the skills and knowledge to become an effective NED.

Having spent 15 years in a Data Science consultancy, and with five years PLC Board level experience, Adrian Lingard signed up to the Exceptional NED programme as he has a passion for working with growing companies and wanted to learn new skills to support more leaders deliver results.

Value for money

Research shows that Exceptional NEDS need to be independent, have the right balance of challenge and support, be excellent communicators and have a deep understanding of business. Through this programme, aspiring NEDS can increase their expertise in these softer skills, whilst gaining a better understanding of their professional responsibilities.

Executives pay just £950 for the programme, which starts with a two-day workshop taught by experienced professionals. “It’s a light touch course”, says Adrian, “which provides a safe and supportive space to adapt your skills and working practices to the NED role.”

Participants then undertake a placement as a NED at a high-growth SME. Adrian was “matched” with Hatmill and initially committed to spending three half days attending Board meetings over a three-month period.

For Adrian, the opportunity to hone his business knowledge with a company which shares his values is something you can’t put a price on. “Although I hadn’t previously worked in the logistics industry, I was able to apply my consultancy experience and skills from working in a PLC to helping Simon and the team implement a governance structure, which was incredibly rewarding.”

People-centred approach

The Exceptional NED programme has been designed to help participants design an approach that works for the organisation and its people.

Adrian immediately added value to Hatmill with his ability to sift through the various elements of governance and select the right bits for the company. According to Simon, “Adrian has helped Hatmill establish a governance structure in which things are not just done for the sake of it, but because they will benefit the company.”

Although Simon admits that he was nervous a NED would just turn up to attend Board meetings, he acknowledges with a big smile that it was quickly clear he needn’t have worried. “Adrian’s hands on, creative and practical advice has added huge value in terms of making our company more professional and has more than justified the cost of a NED.”

One size doesn’t fit all

Adrian is passionate about the benefits of the programme. “Anyone who is curious about what a NED role is and whether they could be the right fit should go on this course.”

He urges people to go in with an open mind. “Give it a go and see what you can get out of it. Companies need different things from a NED and often you won’t know what you need to focus on until you start the role. That is what is so exciting about this programme – it brings different skills out in you and really helps you take a people-centred approach.”

Simon agrees with this approach. “Adrian has brought a different perspective, enriching our company and mentoring our newly-established Board to enable them to continue to deliver as the company develops and grows.”

So, would Adrian recommend the course to other executives? “Without a doubt”, he says. “The programme is a great investment of time and offers value for money. I recommend it for anyone considering a transition into the NED role, or indeed those in the early stages of the move.”

Find out more about the Exceptional NED programme.