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The Sounding Board

Making big decisions better

The Sounding Board is a group of entrepreneurs, professional advisors and generally nice people who love the challenge of running businesses and are happy to volunteer their time to try and help. We want to share that knowledge and experience we have of running organisations in order help others with theirs... and raise some money for charity along the way.

 

What can I expect?

Business owners talking about the Sounding Board experience

 

Who are we?

  • A group of entrepreneurs, professional advisors and generally nice people who love the challenge of running businesses and are happy to volunteer their time to try and help. We want to share that knowledge and experience we have of running organisations in order help others with theirs and hopefully raise some money for charity along the way.

What do we do?

  • Each quarter we run an informal programme of 6 x 1-2 hours meetings, where 2 relevant Sounding Board members meet with you to provide; guidance, advice, insight, experience, support & generally act as a sounding board, to help you achieve your goals.

  • After being accepted we match you up with 2 x Sounding Board members with relevant experience and skills to meet with you over the 12-week period.

Why do we do it?

  • Our experience to date leads us to think that we can help almost every business that is willing to be open about their goals, challenges and invest some time in talking them through and listening.

  • We enjoy helping, want to give a little back to both business and good causes.

Who is it for?

  • All businesses great and small who aspire to improve.

  • Businesses that are struggling with:

    • Growth (too much as well as not enough)

    • Strategic direction and planning

    • Shareholder planning (planning for exit, succession planning, …)

    • Stress or a specific crisis

    • …… or any business issue/problem/thinking you want the share.  These are driven by you.

Who is it not for?

  • People who are not willing to commit and invest the time.

    • Please do take this point seriously. We invest our time and energy free of charge into this process and there are a limited number of spaces.

    • Accepting a space and then not participating (without a good reason) will make you a bad person.

How do you get accepted?

  • Just email Angela with a brief outline of who you are, your business, approximate scale of the business and a brief outline of some of the challenges you are facing.

How much does it cost?

  • Not a lot!

  • It will cost you time – we aim for a minimum of 6 meetings of circa 2 hours over the 12-week period but often provide more.

  • We ask for people (their businesses) to commit to paying at least £1000 to our supported charity at the end of the 12 weeks if you feel we have added value.

  • We say commit because, if at the end of the 12-week period, you feel you have not received at least £1000 of value, then we will not hold you to it.

  • We also do not want the £1000 commitment to be a barrier or another thing adding to the financial worries of your company. If you are struggling, we are happy with an “IOU” to donate when you are enjoying happier times.

 
No upcoming events at the moment
 

We're raising £50,000 to support vulnerable families

Helping the Norfolk Community Foundation tackle food insecurity

The Sounding Board members aren't paid but it you've found our input valuable then please help us reach our goal. You can read more here

Judy Dow of the Norfolk Community Foundation explains how the money raised by the Sounding Board is helping families in Norfolk

 

The Board Members

Voices of experience

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Greg Allan

Greg joined Birketts in September 2006 upon qualification. He is a Partner in their Corporate Finance and Banking and Finance Teams.
Greg specialises in corporate finance, acquisition and secured finance as well as corporate business recovery work. He has been involved in numerous acquisitions, mergers, MBO's and disposal acting for vendors, buyers and financial institutions. Greg has also worked on a wide variety of other corporate transactions, including joint ventures and non-contentious corporate insolvency matters, including administrations and pre-pack acquisitions.

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Charles Cohen

Charles Cohen is a UK based technology entrepreneur, executive, author and investor with over 20 years experience of digital currencies and online gaming.

In 1998 he founded beenz.com, the web’s currency, raising close to $100m from investors ranging from Larry Ellison (Oracle) to Hikari Tsushin and Apax Patricoff. Beenz opened offices in a dozen countries and signed up millions of users before being privately sold to Carlson Inc. in 2001.

In 2004 Charles created Probability plc, pioneering real money gaming on internet connected mobile phones. He was CEO when Probability was listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange in 2006. It was acquired by IGT in 2014, where Charles worked as a senor executive until his return to London in 2020.

He is a non-executive Director of Low 6 Limited (“Ultimate Fan”) and has a Bachelors degree from Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics; is married with two adult daughters and lives in London.

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Vanessa Fletcher

I qualified as a Chartered Accountant at 23 and joined Ernst & Young where I became a senior manager in Corporate Finance at 29.
Worked at Board level under the entrepreneurial leadership of brand specialist, John Murphy at St Peter Brewery PLC to create a UK beer brand from scratch and Coates & Co (Plymouth) Limited, to resuscitate the brand of Plymouth Gin with John and Charles Rolls (who went on to establish the Fever Tree brand of drinks mixers). In 1999, I Joined Targetfollow Group as Finance Controller and became Joint Managing Director responsible for Finance & HR .Developed and recruited team members to match the growth in the business (from a portfolio size of £150m to £900m). Total senior debt funds raised in the period, circa £1bn and Acquisition of property portfolios and individual properties through corporate and asset deals, circa £250m.
I started FD Strategies in 2011, where my team and I provide part time financial director resource to companies without a finance director.

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Colin Hadden

International board level leader with extensive experience and success in executive leadership, business operations, business growth and change. Commercially and growth minded with proven experience of leading large scale ($bn+) technology enabled businesses in regulated markets. In-depth understanding of lottery/gaming, payments, branding, product portfolio management and the provision of enterprise technology to a wide range of industries. Strength in leading across cultures and disciplines with 20+years experience in Europe and Africa. Recently concluded a 6 year assignment in the US as General Manager of the Illinois and Indiana (Hoosier) lotteries.

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Nick Harding

Nick led an MBO team in a £26m deal in 1996. Through a series of acquisitions he built a business that was eventually sold for £180m (9 times EBITDA) in 2007, delivering a 400% return to shareholders. He then established a new business, funded by taking control of an AIM cash shell and built this by a series of acquisitions before selling in 2012 for £80m. Along the way he has used pretty much every funding option available, from fairly straightforward bank borrowing, through Venture Capital to floating on public markets.

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Andrew Hatcher

Andrew has a long history of identifying, developing and managing innovative solutions within corporate environments and notably created an implemented a comprehensive and international innovation management system while working for Reuters, the European media group. Subsequently working with Reuters Venture Capital, his career at the company culminated with a role as CEO of an Asian-based Internet trading corporate spin-out in Singapore which he took through initial VC funding and on to a trade sale. He has created and runs a number of smaller companies since 2004.

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Saul Humphrey

Saul is the Managing Partner of his own consultancy practice eponymously named as Saul D Humphrey LLP. He is  Chair of New Anglia LEP's Building Growth and also a Non Executive Director of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's housing development/property companies.

Saul has a Doctorate in Construction Procurement and Economics (PhD awarded from Loughborough University) and Masters Degree in Construction Management (MSc awarded with distinction from Heriot-Watt University).

He is a corporate fellow and professional assessor for the Chartered Institute of Building (FCIOB), a Chartered Construction Manager and he represents the CIOB with the Construction Industry Council (CIC). Saul is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS). He is a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (MCIArb), a Qualified Adjudicator and an honorary Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (FICE).

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Kevin Johnson

Founder and former CEO of The Cotswold Company (UK) Ltd. A digitally led online home wares retailer. Grew the business to >£50m and made a partial exit to a PE firm in 2016. Left CEO role in Jan 2020 for a sabbatical, which hasn’t turned out as expected. Planning on becoming an active angel/non exec advisor/investor in September 2020.

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Brian Keane

C.E.O of Cameron Ventures Group, Brian is a hotelier with a wealth of experience in all areas of hotel operations and management, having worked in both the corporate and private sectors. He has identified a niche in maximising shareholder returns through structured capital investment programmes. 

Brian sold his first business to a national operator in 2005 He founded Cameron Ventures Group in 2012, initially with a single closed hotel. The business has developed into a group that owns and manages more than 14 hotels across England with a combined market value of £30 million. 

Brian is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and recipient of the prestigious Acorn Award. The Hotel Group has also won many industry awards. Brian believes the success has been through collaboration, partnerships and building the team from within.

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Stuart Riseborough

I have 35 years' experience in the banking and finance industry, most recently 12 years as a Corporate Relationship Director for Barclays working with SMEs turning over £6m-£50m, primarily in the manufacturing and logistics industries. My role involved looking after rapidly growing as well as established businesses, as well as supporting those in difficulty. I have worked with sole traders, partnerships, family businesses, company boards and UK subsidiaries of foreign companies.

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Richard Ross

‘I have always been involved in business. I’ve worked closely with people who have built businesses that have grown from start-ups to employing tens, hundreds or even thousands of people. I’ve been an effective sounding board for those business owners.’


Richard is a founding director of Chadwicks, a wealth manager based at the University of East Anglia. A UEA economics graduate who has studied behavioural economics as a post-graduate, Richard also holds an MBA and a Masters in Wealth Management. He is a Chartered Financial Planner and a Chartered Wealth Manager, specialising in helping owners build value in their businesses in preparation for a sale or transfer. He is a past school board member of the UEA Business School, he currently sits on the Strategic Board of the UEA School of Economics and is a trustee of the Norfolk Community Foundation.

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Chris Williams

I’ve specialised in insolvency and recovery related work most of my working life.

I've advised directors of companies with no assets to those with a billion. I enjoy meeting people who have struggled , recognise their problems and want a solution.

I am known to be relaxed enough to put an arm around people, think around the whole problem and be realistic enough to make the best recommendation and most importantly make my clients understand what is the best solution for them in what may be a tricky situation.

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Kevan Williams

At UEA I am an Associate Professor of Strategy teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students in areas such as strategy, leadership, change, marketing and branding.  Previously I was Associate Dean for Admissions leading our Faculty of Social Science recruitment of students generating £60m cohort income each cycle (and becoming the largest faculty at UEA). I was also Associate Dean of Innovation. I used to be a scientist and have worked in the private, public and education sectors and have started and run small businesses.  Beyond UEA  I am a Director of a new company  providing leadership and management to schools and multiacademy trusts.  Perhaps relevant to our discussion here, in 2010 I led a Norfolk recession support programme (Evolve) where we achieved 150% of targets and took the project to the final of the Times Higher Education awards.

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Angela Brett

Angela is the Sounding Board's marketing guru - if you've heard about us the chances are that's down to Ange!

When she's not helping out with the Sounding Board, Angela is busy developing new business opportunities for Chadwicks.

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Harriet Davis

Harriet keeps us on the straight and narrow by making sure everything is running efficiently.

When she's not helping out with the Sounding Board, Harriet is putting her Masters in investment and Financial Management to good use as a trainee wealth manager at Chadwicks.

 
 

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