Meet the MD: Matt Roberts, NonExecutiveDirectors

Meet the MD: Matt Roberts, NonExecutiveDirectors

Matt Roberts is building a network of non-executive directors and connecting them to employers. 8.000 strong, he's in charge of a growing team, and tells BQ about the challenges that can bring.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words?

As CEO, I’m involved in growing the business, as we have a business model that can be rolled out in any country across the world.

In addition to this, I oversee the growth of the team, which has expanded rapidly from five just three years ago to 46 currently. It’s important we have the right people in place to both provide a high quality service to our existing membership base and to continually innovate in order to build and grow.

What is it the company does?, part of Directors Online Network connects non-executive directors (NEDs) with employers, without any cost to the employer, traditionally the largest barrier to engaging the two.

Established in 2013 by a small group of ex senior directors across many industries including banking, recruitment and professional accountancy practice, is now the UK’s largest online network of NEDs with over 8,000 members and thousands of career opportunities.

The website connects NEDs and companies in an off market environment, allowing NEDs to confidentially search for vacancies and share their CVs and details with confidence while they are being searched by employers looking to engage directly.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I had previously ran my own marketing consultancy business, during which time, Ian Wright, executive recruiter and founder of Directors Online Network, headhunted me to work with one of his clients.  During the initial conversation – which usually lasts about 20 minutes but this one lasted two hours – Ian told me about his new business that had, in one year, grown to dominate the online space in its field (the non-executive director market).

I went to the interview and by all accounts was offered the role, but Ian conveniently made the job go away and asked me to head up Directors Online Network instead. What Ian saw was a "meeting of the minds" and the opportunity to blend his sector knowledge with my ability to grow and run large teams.  

It was a no-brainer, as I could see the potential of the business model and the product and had so much faith in it being a success that I gave up all his other clients to become CEO as well as buying into the business.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

The role of a great leader is to hire the best people and then give them the tools they need to succeed, including support such as mentoring and training.

We truly believe that our employees are our most important asset and we will invest in them so they are able to be the very best they can be. If morale is high and employees are confident and happy, our members are much more likely to receive a first class service.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Initially, we struggled to recruit the right candidates.  At that time, we were based in an office in Chorley and it was difficult to entice people to work for us when many young graduates or job seekers wanted to work in a city centre location.  We’ve since relocated to an office based in Spinningfields and are about to move to an even larger premises, due to rapid growth. 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Whatever the weather, I get my kit on and do a long run every morning. It not only gets the endorphins going, but it also gives me time to clear my mind and prepare myself for the busy day ahead.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be an RAF pilot and did everything I needed to do to become one, but then I slipped two discs in my back and that scuppered my career. It was a huge disappointment, but life has a funny way of throwing new challenges at you.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

It has to be lying; what is the point? Liars will usually get found out.  When they do, it creates distrust and fractures relationships within the workplace so I have zero tolerance towards it.

Where do you see the company in five years time?

We are a very ambitious company and are quietly confident we will be one of the world’s leading member networks, a dominant power in the senior director sector and a major player in the global freelance economy.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader? 

I would say be realistic and honest about your own weakness then set about hiring brilliant people to fill the gaps.