“Brilliant”, “interesting”, “empowering” – business owners rave about BtB Advisory Boards

Silverstone Technology Cluster

3rd December 2021

Silverstone Technology Cluster members Marcus Trofimov and Tobias Knichel are encouraging more company owners to take advantage of Be the Business’s SME Advisory Boards programme after participating in them during 2021.

The boards are free through Be the Business’s partnership with the STC.

CLICK HERE to apply for an Advisory Board or CLICK HERE to volunteer as a Board member.

Be the Business has released the following case study about Marcus’ and Tobias’ experiences of receiving advice from a board and decision to volunteer as an advisor respectively.

Marcus established his company, Silverstone Composites, five years ago with the backing of an angel investor who became his business partner and mentor. The business, which provides high quality composite components to the automotive and motorsport industries, grew rapidly, and now has 15 employees and a turnover of around £1.5m.

 

But just before the pandemic hit, Marcus bought out the angel investor, and lost his mentor.

“It was a crucial time for the company, and despite all my years in the composite industry, I was only 30, and still relatively inexperienced in business,” Marcus recalled in the case study.

Notwithstanding the support he received from being part of the STC, he felt a keen need for objective guidance, not least on how to steer his company through the pandemic.

“I felt quite lonely. I needed to talk to someone about my emotions, my thoughts, my ideas,” added Marcus. An introduction to the Be the Business Boards programme came at just the right time. “It was fantastic.”

A humble leader, whose guiding ethos is that everyone’s ideas are valuable, Marcus’ vision is to sustain manageable growth while investing in the future generation of employees. One of the key things he hoped to get from the board was help implementing an apprenticeship scheme.

Nevertheless, he was apprehensive about opening up his company to scrutiny and potential challenge by the five advisory board members.

“I put up a bit of a front,” he explained. “I just got everything off my chest, which helped to clear my mind, and allowed the board to help me see where I needed to focus, to prioritise.

“I felt empowered by the fact that these highly experienced, knowledgeable people had not just taken time out of their busy lives to give me advice and support, but they actually validated what I was doing. I think we all had mutual respect.”

Tobias, MD of PUNCH Flybrid, the leader in mobile flywheel energy storage technology solutions, is among a pool of business people to volunteer their time as an advisor on the BtB boards programme – by coincidence, he is on the board working with Marcus.

Tobias has held senior management positions in a start-up, a privately-owned SME, a London Stock Exchange-listed company and a family-owned group with 2000 employees.

While believing that his experience of ‘scaling up’ could be useful to the businesses he’s advising, he also finds it “super interesting” to learn about those companies, as well as hearing about how the other board members, with all their varied knowledge and experience, approach the different problems that are presented to them.

“It’s so interesting to think about the challenges these young businesses are facing, and how you might adapt your own collective experience to help them,” said Tobias. “Everyone is working together to try to come up with good solutions, and that creates a very positive atmosphere, which I really enjoy.

“I thought it would be very interesting to see if my experiences might help smaller companies, but also, of course, I wanted to learn something as well. It’s always a two-way process.”

Tobias implemented a marketing programme in his own company the day after one board meeting, inspired by a fellow board member’s advice to the SME owner that however skilled you are at your specialism – engineering, for example – it counts for nothing if no one knows about it.

Tobias wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the programme to other business leaders: “I think it’s a brilliant initiative,” he said.

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