He’s helping bosses get the best from their businesses – and their people.
Chris Buckley is drawing on his own experiences of building and selling a business to help other owners and directors tackle the many and varied challenges they face – both day-to-day and long-term.
As managing director of The Alternative Board (Calderdale and Kirklees) Chris runs a series of twice-monthly “board meetings” attended by small groups of senior business people from non-competing companies who bring up their own challenges and issues – and hear what advice the others have to offer.
“Simply describing their issues and writing them down can be very cathartic,” he says. “Issues are often about cash, people and growth. At their most basic, they are all about strategy.
“And it’s not really about what makes businesses tick – it’s about what makes people tick because it’s people you are dealing with.
“It’s people who make things hugely enjoyable – or a huge pain.”
Chris, who hails from Halifax, but now lives at Jackson Bridge, saw first first hand the challenges and opportunuities presented in business as a young man helping his father’s electrical wholesale firm.
Later, he built up his own business in recruitment – living and working in London from Monday to Friday.
Subsequently, he sold the business to an American software vendor, but stayed on to help them build their business in Europe.
For several years, he travelled between major European and US cities and the USA.
But he admits: “I was getting too old for all that. I wanted to come back to Yorkshire.”
It was while “having a moan” to a friend that Chris was introduced to The Alternative Board – an international franchise founded in the USA by Allen Fishman, an entrepreneur who had built up his own electrical distribution business from a local to a regional and eventually a national company before selling it for big bucks.
Says Chris: “He had got himself a ranch in Colorado and did a lot of ski-ing. The people he met on the ski slopes were financially well off and many of them had sold their businesses. But many of them also said their businesses would have done better still if they’d had a non-executive board.
“Allen went back to Illinois, got a few friends together and set up The Alternative Board – to use their experience to help others.”
Now The Alternative Board has about 200 franchises around the world with thousands of members. In the UK, it has more than 20 franchise owners with more than 300 members.
Chris launched his franchise covering Calderdale and Kirkless towards the end of last year and now organises regular board meetings at different venues where business owners and directors can get peer support to thrash out issues affecting them.
Chris also holds “taster” board meetings for potential Alternative Board members.
While some issues are common to all businesses, The Alternative Board also recognises that size matters!
Explains Chris: “We run ‘red’ boards for the size of buiness where if the owner goes on holiday everything stops. Their issues are almost invariably about growth and cash.
“We run ‘white’ boards for businesses where if the boss goes on holiday he or she is always phoning the office.
“And we run ‘blue’ boards for bigger managed businesses where if the boss goes on holiday everyone else knows what they’re supposed to be doing. Their issues are almost always about people and strategy.”
The patriotic colour coding has no special significance – but the system means companies of similar sizes and with similar characteristics can work together.
Chris says the franchise has made a good start. It has raised its profile with an appearance at Wakefield Business Week earlier this year and plans to get involved with Kirklees Business Week in October.
Taster board meetings are scheduled for September and October while special leadership events will take place in September and November – covering issues such as boosting profits and employee perfomance as well as strategic planning for 2015.
There will also be events alongside the board meetings to focus on areas such as good decision making and communicating – to find out what your team wants and while making sure the team delivers.
It’s not about networking, Chris point out – and it’s not about American razzmatazz. “It’s about getting good advice from other in business,” he says.
Chris has his own long-term strategy for his franchise. “I’m aiming to build a business with 35 members and recruit an additinoal facilitator,” he says. “My 10-year plan is to increase my territory.”
At 54, Chris is still ambitious for the business and passionate about helping entrepreneurs.
“A business owner has the right to expect that their business will deliver for them what they want from life,” he says. “It can enable them to do things that simply being employed will not provide. I have the privilege of working with 10 members – interesting, complex and motivated individuals striving to build their businesses.”
But he also recognises it can’t be just work. “It is important to have other interests,” he says. “I like swimming. My dark secret is that I take a dip in Salford Quays every Saturday morning. I did a charity swim there and I’ve been going back ever since.
“I go fly fishing – and I’m seriously considering golf. I like it for the ‘craic’ and the social element.
“I also passed my level one dry stone walling course last year. The beauty of it is that while you are doing that, you are using a different part of the brain. All your day-to-day problem disappear because you have to concentrate. on the job in hand.”
Role: Managing director
Family: Partner Carole and sons Jake, 23, and Charlie, 21
Holidays: Greece and Cornwall. We plan to visit Thailand next year
First job: I had two paper rounds and a milk round as a boy. I also helped in the family electrical wholesale business
Best thing about the job? The privilege of getting to know and work with entrepreneurs. They are such interesting people
Worst thing about the job? The administration stuff! I can talk and network all day long, but the paperwork is a pain!
Business tip: Believe in yourself. Do what you love and persist when things get tough. If you take yourself off the field of play you are not in the game
Work: Helping business owners make better decisions
Site: Jackson Bridge
Phone: 07435 965952
Web: www. thealternativeboard.co.uk