Joining the firm in 2002, Brian now finds himself leading the non-profit firm which employs everyone from doctors to salespeople, despite his earlier goal of driving steam engines…
What is it the company does?
The Company is a not-for-profit employee benefits organisation specialising in occupational health, health insurance, sick pay provision, cancer insurance and an employee benefits platform.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As the Managing Director of BHSF Employee Benefits Limited, my key role is to chart the future course of the business and to ensure the widest distribution of our products for the benefit of our client employers and their employees alike.
One of the foundations to the business has been its diversification agenda, and I have been aided in this by fellow directors and most significantly by the Managing Director of our occupational health business, as we have established a UK-wide footprint in the occupational health market. As a group of companies we employ around 250 people in roles as diverse as doctors, nurses, sales people and administrators. We rely upon each and every member of the team to contribute to our not-for-profit agenda of ‘improving health and wellbeing for every generation’.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Having spent my teenage years in South Africa, I returned to the UK and entered the world of insurance at the tender age of 19, working for organisations as diverse as Hearts of Oak and divisions of the AON Corporation and running my own brokerage business for a while. Arriving at BHSF in 2002 as the National Sales Manager, I joined the Board here quite quickly and went on to be Managing Director of the Employee Benefits business in 2014.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I am a great believer in the saying that you ‘can’t teach what you don’t know and you can’t lead where you won’t go’. As a result, I tend to try to keep my knowledge as up-to-date as possible and work hard at remaining as close to our customers as I can, given my broader responsibilities. I spend a great deal of time in the field with our client organisations and working with other likeminded companies to ensure that I am as up-to-date as possible on the needs and wants of our customers and the team here at BHSF. I am also a member of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, which enlightens me to the views of other businesses and provides a valuable sounding board.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge as the Managing Director of a not-for-profit business is to clearly identify the reasons why we do what we do. As a share capital company with shareholders to serve, your ultimate aim is self-evident, but as a not-for-profit you need to have a clear sight of the organisation’s goals, mission and values.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I am very lucky in that I don’t really suffer from stress as a result of my job, enjoying it as thoroughly as I do. I do tend to eat, sleep and breathe the business and when I am away from the business I have a young family which more than serves as an antidote. Between my wife Siobhan, our five and fifteen year olds, the house, my ‘to do’ list and the job, I tend to find I sleep very soundly and therefore I am stress-free. The only real stress in my life is supporting Newcastle United.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child growing up in the 1970s there was only one thing to be when you grew up – and that was a steam engine driver. Watching Casey Jones on a Sunday morning on our black and white TV, there was no job in the world other than driving the Cannonball Express across the plains of America.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I guess my pet hate in the workplace would be bureaucracy for its own sake, although I am glad to say here at BHSF we suffer very little of that. As an IIP accredited employer and an ISO accredited business, we do of course have ‘process’, but they are all processes for a purpose. In terms of what I would do about it, I would simply identify it and replace it with better quality business process.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
With the appointments of new Group Chairman and Group CEO, it is an interesting question. The business and indeed the Group have always been anchored here in Birmingham and I do not see that changing. With the exciting agenda for the region I see a secure future for the business and our talented staff here in the city.
In terms of growth, I think it is inevitable that we will be considerably bigger than we are as our reputation continues to grow and I have no doubt that we will still be adhering to our not-for-profit roots and ethical values. Beyond that, who knows? The world is changing so fast these days it is difficult to plan for next week never mind five years’ time. One thing is certain, we will still be making a positive difference in the lives of everyday working people.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
I guess the best advice I could give to an aspiring business leader is to choose your advisers well. I was lucky enough in my early career to be introduced to the Institute of Directors, and its members have been very generous with their advice and tips on what to do and where not to waste your time. I do genuinely believe that advice is key in developing your career, as it is much better to learn from the mistakes of others rather than going ahead and repeating them yourself.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I was lucky enough to receive a lot of good advice when I was starting out and can’t put my finger on any one thing that was missing. Between the words of authors such as George Clason, Napoleon Hill and Clement Stone I was lucky in my formative years to get a lot of the right advice. I suppose had I not been told to read their works I would wish that somebody had told me to do so. In terms of passing on to others, they are great books with some simple truths about hard work, positive thinking and success.
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