Guest blog by Cedi Frederick
Whenever I’m asked to share my story, I ask for just a moment or two to contextualise everything that follows as I feel it’s really important, so I hope you the reader will indulge me, and more importantly as you read this, I hope you will agree.
My career story started before I was born in 1957. How so? Well, my parents came from Grenada, in the West Indies in 1955, during what could be described as phase 2 of the Windrush Generation. My father arrived first, and my mother followed 6 months later. Like many who arrived during that period, my parents felt honoured and privileged to be here and despite the many daily personal challenges they faced and through sheer hard work, they built a very good life for themselves and us, their three children. I’ve described my father many times as a ‘Sunday afternoon philosopher’ as Sunday was THE family day, when we attended church together, eat together and the one day of the week when we children were allowed into the front room. Sunday was the only day of the week that my father would allow himself to have a scotch, sit in his chair and share his thoughts on life, the universe and everything with us! His messages to us of ‘Get a job, keep a job’ and ‘Being as good as (a white person) will not be good enough’ and ‘You have to give back and make a contribution to the country that took us in’ were repeated again and again, reflecting his world view, values and experiences and without doubt shaped my career path.
My career started in the London Borough of Camden’s Housing Department where I stayed for 14 years, progressing to a 3rd tier senior management role. Not quite ‘Get a job, keep a job’, but staying with the same employer for 14 years was pretty close! But after 14 years, I knew I had to leave as the spectre of becoming a ‘Local Authority Lifer’ was starting to loom large on my horizon. But by this time, I was totally committed to public service, and ‘giving back’ as my father described it, and while my career path led me to the dizzying heights of becoming CEO of a housing association and then social care organisations, all were in the ‘Not for Profit’ sector, where the term ‘shareholder value’ has a very different meaning to that within the private sector. Looking back on my career, I can now see that the ‘Being as good as…’ mantra from my father led me to becoming a workaholic, the result of a subconscious belief that I had to keep proving myself, to the point that for many years, my role became my identity. I saw myself as a CEO first and foremost, above being a husband, father, brother or son. Work was everything to me. Then, in early 2016, my wife almost died and my whole world, along my view of what was important changed! Since then, it’s been all about balance, priorities and listening to my heart not my head, which has led me to a portfolio career of remunerated Non-Executive roles, running my own consultancy and coaching practice. Yes, I earn a lot less money than as a CEO, but I’m happier, more relaxed and more complete. I spend more time with my wife, family and friends. I enjoyed my CEO life, but I love my life now. I love coaching as I’m able to help people be their own difference makers. Coaching is perhaps the most personally rewarding of what I do now.
At the time, my father’s advice was right on so many levels, and I’m sure if he was alive today, he’d be proud of how my life has worked out, what I’ve achieved and how I’ve at found an inner peace through my portfolio career.
Guest blog by David B Horne
It was the 4th of July 1987. Independence Day in the USA. I’m from Canada so we don’t celebrate that. In fact, we sometimes tease those treasonous former colonials who broke away from their mother country, proud of the fact that we’re a part of the Commonwealth and they are not. But I digress.
That afternoon, my wife and I embarked on the first of three flights, which would take us from Victoria BC, on the west coast of Canada to Zürich, Switzerland. Both sets of parents and most of our siblings lived in or very near to Victoria, and they came to the airport to say goodbye. We were venturing out into the big world. We had one-way tickets and I had a two-year employment contract with the global accounting firm, PwC in their Zürich office. I remember my nephew saying to his mum at the time that he was three years old and would be five when we returned - clever chap, he’s now 35 and is a maths teacher!
We never returned. At least not to live there; we go back to Canada every summer for a month to visit friends and family, and to re-charge the batteries.
Life offered us opportunities, and we took them. At the end of my two years with PwC Zürich, my largest client made me the proverbial offer you can’t refuse. I took it and began the next stage of my career which lasted for 8 years and brought us (including our two daughters who were born in Zürich) to London, where we’ve lived since 1993. London: the coolest city on the planet, and one that I’ve been in love with since my first family holiday to Europe in 1974, aged 12.
Other opportunities came. My next two roles were advertised in the jobs section of the Financial Times. I remember it was always exciting to get the Thursday FT and see what jobs were on offer. Bear in mind this was before the advent of online recruiting. Interestingly, I was made redundant from both of those jobs – one due to a restructuring of the company and the other because our company was taken over and merged into the acquiring business.
The second of those jobs was with a very acquisitive PR agency group, and it was my first exposure to the world of M&A. When my role as European CFO was made redundant, I decided to launch a consulting business. I had never been a consultant before, never worked in sales, but hey, I was young and ambitious. After a couple of fallow months, I got lucky and had a couple of opportunities referred to me from people in my network. One led to a non-executive director role for 7 years and ultimately a sale of the business. The other led to me being CFO of a company listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). There I learned about fundraising and really got to hone my nascent M&A skills. A few years later, I moved to be CFO of another business listed on AIM. We raised more money and did a huge global acquisition. Right before Lehman Brothers went bust and the global financial crisis hit. That was a very challenging time in business, and I learned a huge amount. I also burned out, had a mid-life crisis and launched a wine business.
Wine. What a wonderful product and so many wonderful people, but one of the worst business models I’ve ever come across. Nine years later I still have the wine business but it’s a hobby business and I’m its largest customer by some measure! As one of my best friends says, it’s a tax effective way to enjoy my hobby and I get to drink really good wine at wholesale prices.
After a couple of dark years when I was in denial about the wine business, I re-launched my consulting business. Looking back, for several years after the re-launch it was more like a collection of part-time jobs. That is often reality when building a portfolio career, but it wasn’t what I wanted. As ever, opportunities came and went. At the end of last year, I finished a long-term gig with a client that had been running for more than six years. What felt like a big blow at first turned into a great opportunity. Funny how life works.
The income shortfall was a drag for a few months. More importantly, I had time to re-purpose my professional life. I finally had time to write the book I’d been talking about for four years. Amazingly, in the first few days after it was released it became an Amazon #1 bestseller! Here’s a link to the book. If ever I wanted a sign that I was on the right track, this was it. As of today, I’ve terminated all but two of my part-time jobs, and these two are different because I have equity in both businesses.
Now I’m focused on building my consulting practice around the theme of my book. I’ve developed a methodology called FACE, which stands for Fund, Acquire, Consolidate, Exit. I work exclusively with founders who want to scale their businesses by raising capital, buying other companies, putting them together and ultimately exiting. Everything in my career to date led me to this point, but I could never have predicted it. That’s the way life happens. You can only connect the dots backwards.
Here are my three takeaways from this journey: