Startup stories

Board Talk: Building your top team – Craig Such’s story

How to, Startup stories, Sheffield, Early Stage

Jenny BrookfieldJenny Brookfield, March 1, 2018

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Having the right board in place can keep your fast-growing tech business on track, but how do you find the best people to help you? Tech North spoke to five businesses about finding the right skills to succeed, and this is what they told us…

Boards should continually evolve

A board should be flexible and evolve to reflect the changing needs of a business says Craig Such, who is managing director of Sheffield-based Azzure IT.

“We’ve looked for people who are right for where the business is going to be in two or three years’ time. It’s about recruiting for the business we want to be,” Such says.

“We’re a fast-growing company in the tech sector, our landscape is changing very quickly so although we do want people that are right for now, we’re also mindful of the fact that we turned over £5.2m by the end of December, but by the end of 2019 we expect to be turning over £7.5m, so that’s the rate of growth we’re going through.”

Give board members a focus

Azzure’s board began with two executive members – one focused on growing the business from a strategic and sales point of view and the other coming from a delivery standpoint.

After a couple of years, they were joined by a non-executive director who was brought in because of his sector experience and his knowledge gained from being an NED in other businesses. He has remained with the business since, and now takes on the role of non-executive chairman.

The board has has continued to expand and Such says his aim has been to look for different competencies and personalities.

“You need a mix of people that are pragmatic and some that are energetic and want to conquer the world – people that can bring reality and others that can bring ideas,” he says.

“When we brought in our non-exec, his previous experience was with a business two or three times our size at the time, so the experience and knowledge he could add to our meetings was what we needed to continue our rapid growth.”

Look elsewhere

In many cases, recruiting from the same sector isn’t important but rather looking at the business challenges they have overcome. And, while it’s important to look for leadership skills, the ability to come up with fresh ideas is also critical.

“You have to have an agile approach and you need a stable and strong leadership team so that the core values and culture come from the board right down into the business,” Such says, adding that the business is currently looking for a finance director, which until now, hadn’t been a requirement.

Azzure took £2m of investment from Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund – Mercia Equity Finance in January and appointed a non-executive director from Mercia. Along with his experience, he will assist in finding the right candidate for the finance director role.

Having a good balance is critical and Such is keen to point out the value in bringing in a non-executive board member.

“Any business, especially ones that are growing, without an NED is really missing out on that extra dimension to their business,” he says. “We wouldn’t have grown as fast as we have done.”