Business West looks to wider talent pool for new directors to avoid its board becoming ‘echo chamber’

January 17, 2021

Business West, the region’s largest business group, has broken with its traditional method of recruiting for its board to take on three new non-executive directors.

The £10m turnover group, which runs the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative, said the move was designed to access a wider talent pool that represented the full range of the region’s business communities and would avoid its board becoming an ‘echo chamber’. 

The new joiners – Ade Adebayo, Martin Shelford and Poku Osei, pictured - will bring a wealth of talent and experience to a 12-strong board made up senior business figures from across the region, Business West said.

Poku is the founder and CEO of Babbasa, the highly successful Bristol-based group that supports young people from underrepresented communities into employment through mentoring and work placements.

Ade is an audit senior manager at Swindon-based building society Nationwide and also serves as an independent member of Bristol City Council’s audit committee. He is also a mentor with a Bristol charity supporting ex-offenders in reintegrating effectively into society.

Martin is co-owner of Rocko, a Chepstow-based consultancy working with small tech firms, and has wide experience in retail, supply chain and tech.

The three were selected with the help of BeOnBoard, the recruitment initiative launched by Kalpna Woolf, the former BBC head of production and founder of Bristol’s 91 Ways to Build A Global City – an initiative reaching out to the 91 language communities in Bristol to bring greater understanding, break down barriers and build a more cohesive city.

Business West managing director Phil Smith, pictured, admitted that “recruiting in your own image is a very difficult instinct to break”. 

He said: “The world is changing dramatically and our board is very conscious that to remain credible and effective, Business West needs to know what’s going on in all parts of our business community: their concerns and hopes.

“We need to be able to support and respond. We manage to reach out, through many great projects, deep into our communities, but sometimes struggle to truly interpret and/or act on the messages we are getting. Too often we end up prioritising what we already know and care about.

“Historically, Business West has drawn its selection of non-executive directors from our extensive, but usual, range of contacts.

“This time around we were determined both to avoid this echo chamber by prospecting in new pools and also to take care to properly describe the talents we were looking to recruit.”

Business West is also aiming to gain B Corp accreditation – a recognition regarded as being to the corporate world what Fairtrade is to bananas or coffee.

B Corp businesses must meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.

Bristol has become a leading centre for B Corps, with the likes of Triodos, Neighbourly and Pukka Herbs gaining accreditation alongside national firms and household names such as Patagonia, Abel & Cole, Ella’s Kitchen and Innocent.

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