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Advisor Insights – Jane Beaumont – CEO & Professional Services Advisor

Jane Beaumont is a seasoned CEO, with deep experience in the professional services sector. Her previous roles have seen her lead a cA$300M publicly listed group comprising of 23 companies across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. As an Advisor to professional services businesses, Jane has developed a strong understanding of the practical support Executives and Boards need to support navigating and achieving their strategic priorities.

In this Advisor Insights Series hosted by Advisory Board Centre Founder and CEO Louise Broekman, Jane shares her insights into the Advisory Board sector.

 

The Advisor Insights series are unfiltered conversations giving you a lens into real people and real businesses within the Advisor ecosystem.

 

 

In the world of corporate governance and governance boards, you don’t get to that level working with the executive teams, you just don’t have that opportunity and it’s not the same feeling. With an Advisory Board, you get great satisfaction from being able to build that trust, being able to build that open relationship and to really help them to lift their business to another level. – Jane Beaumont, Approved Advisor

 

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Louise Broekman:
I’m here with Jane Beaumont an advisor and member of the Advisory Board Centre and an experienced professional on advisory boards. Welcome Jane.

Jane Beaumont:
Thank you Louise. My pleasure.

Louise Broekman:
It would be great to have this time with you to share your advisory board insights. First of all, I’d love to hear more about your story.

Jane Beaumont:
I come from a corporate background and have specialized almost in one sector for my whole career. I have been involved in recruitment and in the ancillary services around that, in leadership management, corporate management, change, structures and a number of different things around corporate consultancy. I’ve worked with a number of American companies along the way, which was very good for me because I got to work at a very senior level on a global scale. I then came back to working with Australian based corporates and taking on board roles and CEO roles within the governance structure. I worked with publicly listed companies for a number of years and laterally I was the CEO of one through the very challenging 2008 period.

That took me through until 2013 when I made the decision to opt out of a full-time exec role and opt into just having a life of working, balanced with a lot of leisure and semi-retirement. Now I do advisory board work, which I thoroughly enjoy and use the skills that I’ve developed over a number of years in the executive and corporate world to work with some smaller corporations and to really get into the nitty gritty of their businesses and help them to achieve their goals, get them to a point where they can exit, or they can realize some really good returns from their businesses.

Louise Broekman:
Jane, you’ve been involved in advisory boards for quite a few years now. What has that experience been like for you personally?

Jane Beaumont:
It’s been a really interesting and enjoyable one. The world of advisory boards is certainly different to governance boards. What I like most about it is being able to really get into the nitty gritty of the business and to focus on the real problems and the challenges within the business and to really get to know the CEOs. In some businesses, they have their founding partners, so you really get to know them at that level and to work very closely with them around what the problems and challenges are. I think in the world of corporate governance and governance boards, you don’t get to that level working with the executive teams, you just don’t have that opportunity and it’s not the same feeling. With an Advisory Board, you get great satisfaction from being able to build that trust, being able to build that open relationship and to really help them to lift their business to another level.

There’s a huge amount of personal satisfaction that comes from that. It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges to deal with though and I guess one of the most interesting ones I’ve found in the switch from being in corporate to working with advisory boards is that the business owners don’t necessarily always respond when you might want them to. They are smaller companies and they can be very stretched at times working with a number of different challenges internally. As a result, they sometimes put you on the back burner if they’ve got a problem that needs to be dealt with right now and you do have to get used to that.

Louise Broekman:
It’s a different dynamic isn’t it? When you’ve got this owner who’s got everything, they’ve got skin in the game and they’re working hard and you have just got to kind of fit in with that at times.

Jane Beaumont:
Sometimes you have to back off a little bit and then pick things up a week later or so when you’ve gotten over that hurdle. A good example is just last week we had a meeting scheduled for Friday, and a significant business opportunity had come along for the business. There was a deadline for them, so my immediate reaction was, you just deal with your deadline and what you need to do in the business. We’ll get together early next week when it suits and we’ll work around what your priorities are at the moment. That’s just the way it is, and this is what happens when you’re dealing with smaller companies.

Typically, the ones I work with are between 10 million to say 30 million turnover.  They are really focused on what’s going on in the business and they want to be able to work openly with you, which is fantastic, but you’ve got to be able to understand what’s going on and you can push and pull around that as necessary. You’ve got to be able to flex with them.

Louise Broekman:
What tips do you provide business owners who are maybe thinking about an advisory board or getting more value from their existing advisory board?

Jane Beaumont:
I’ve had a few discussions with different organizations about looking at advisory boards, and I think that when they’re at a certain stage or they’ve got a certain major business challenge or problem, such as expansion, entering a new market or looking for a way to exit down the track, you have to ask yourself how do they tackle that? How do they go about it? How do they actually make sure that their business is in the best possible position? So the advice that I give them is that by engaging those that are experienced in the advisory board space, they can work with them to take them on that journey so that they’re in a position to be able to maximize what it is they’re looking to achieve. They need to be able to look to advisors or a Chair who has the right business experience. They can get so much from that if they can be open, trusting and be able to build the right relationship. It’s about being able to really take them on a journey of understanding what an advisory board’s about.

It’s not just a matter of having one conversation with them. An example is with the most recent organization I’ve become involved with. Two years ago, we started talking about an advisory board and we said let’s look at it at the three-year mark, but in fact it’s actually been at the four-year hurdle that it’s now in place. We’re just looking at the second advisor now ready to kick off in the beginning of the year. It’s been a real journey to get them to that point. There’s another organization I’m on a similar path with whereby we want to get them to that point where they really do understand that they are ready for advisor engagement, because they have to be mentally ready for it. They have to be able to give it the time and they have to feel that they can trust and that they’re really prepared to sit down and work with these people and to let them help take them to where they need to get to.

Louise Broekman:
It’s a very genuine relationship isn’t it?

Jane Beaumont:
Yes tremendously.

Louise Broekman:
As an external consultant, you’re not let in so you can’t make an impact.

Jane Beaumont:
Exactly. You’ve got to be able to build that trust, there’s got to be some really good dialogue there.

Louise Broekman:
Jane, what tips would you provide Advisors?

Jane Beaumont:
I think that advisors have to be open. They’ve got to give the time. It’s not just about being there on the day of a meeting. It’s about being able to understand the business to really getting to grips with the organization and then being willing to think through, talk through the problems and challenges that the business has and being able to reach out outside of that to other people if necessary because we don’t know it all either. So if there’s a particular problem or issue, it’s about being able to say, well, how can I help and how else can I get out into the market to find what they may need? Then you need to be able to put those people in touch with the organization. We are there to really help open up the ideas for the business and to take them on that journey. But we don’t have all the answers ourselves and we have to be able to understand that.

Louis Broekman:
And it’s a pleasure being a champion for somebody else in the market too. You’ve got to really believe in the business that you’re supporting.

Jane Beaumont:
Oh, no question. Absolutely.

Louis Broekman:
Jane, thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights. I look forward to continuing to support you in your advisory board journey yourself.

Jane Beaumont:
Thank you Louise. My pleasure. Bye for now.

About Author:

Louise Broekman
Louise is an award winning Entrepreneur, researcher and business advisor. Louise has received recognition from Industry and Government at a local and national level for her contribution to the Australian business sector. She is an in-demand speaker and is regularly called upon as the leading voice for Advisory Boards in the Asia Pacific region.