Red Sofa Interviews

Phil Smith on The Red Sofa

Watch the full interview here

Interviewer: Welcome Phil, and thank you for joining us on The Red Sofa.

Phil: Thank you Roger, great to be here.

Interviewer: Tell me about The Alternative Board.

Phil: Hi. My name’s Phil Smith, and I’m the owner of The Alternative Board for Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard.

So, owning and running a business is unlike anything else. There can be nothing more exciting and the responsibility can be challenging and a heavy load. I know because I’ve been there.

At The Alternative Board, which we abbreviate to TAB, we help business owners from all walks and industries to improve their business in ways that change their lives, to live better, lead better and achieve more.

We often hear from business owners who feel they can’t properly share their challenges with their friends, family, employees, consultants or even the people they’ve hired to run their business. In fact, we’ve heard many business owners use the phrase it’s lonely at the top.

Interviewer: What does TAB offer?

Phil: Well, look, large corporates have typically got a board of directors, right? And that offers advice, guidance, and accountability to those that are running the company. Small or medium. Businesses, that SMEs privately own or family run businesses don’t typically have that. So where do those business owners go for advice, guidance, and accountability?

TAB offers a safe, confidential space to work on your business, not in it.

One to one coaching to help you make better decisions faster and then ensure that you act on them.

New tools, resources, and global contacts to help you think, communicate and lead more impactfully.

And a proven business transformation programme called Strat Pro, that’s specifically designed for management or senior leadership teams who want to achieve greater team alignment and accountability.

Interviewer: What do TAB members experience?

Phil: At TAB we’ve worked with tens of thousands of business owners, and we understand that your challenges really rest in six categories of pillars. We call them The Six Pillars of Pain and Possibility and they are time, money, people, vision, strategy, and exit.

Is that ringing any bells?

When you’re bogged down in a business problem, even expert advice often can’t compare to sharing your concerns with a group of people who not only understand your business, but also understand the pressures you face as a business owner.

So, what I do at TAB is to group together business owners from non-competing businesses in a private environment, all under NDA. And I run a monthly board meeting. It’s just like a board meeting where you, the business owner, get to bring whatever challenge or opportunity because it’s not always bad news, right, that you’re tackling in the business. It can be something immediately pressing, something strategic and long term, or even something personal. How’s it going balancing your work life and your private life?

You might first step into that room with, say, ten years of business experience under your belt, but maybe there’s 100 years of business experience sat around that table how valuable is that? Insight, knowledge, and experience. As our board members become more familiar with each other’s businesses, something incredible happens.

One of the reasons why TAB boards are so successful is that the members are able to open up with the kind of things they don’t discuss with anybody else. They never discuss their fears or aspirations for what the future holds with their employees in general, or often members of their leadership team or even partners at home. The only agenda at our board meetings is company owners who want to help each other because they get it. They’re at the coalface with you.

Interviewer: Why do business owners join TAB?

Phil: Well, business owners join for a variety of reasons, but the top three would be they want to get feedback and advice on the challenges they’re facing in their business, to have a sounding board for ideas they want to implement in their business, or simply to help them cope with the challenges of running their business.

Accountants, consultants, mentors, coaches they can all play important roles in your business journey. But unless you’re in it every day facing those challenges, you just don’t have the same perspective. We honestly believe that the best advice business owners can receive is from other business owners.

They’re in it with you.

The only agenda around our board table is fellow business owners who want to help each other, who might benefit from a business advisory board.

Interviewer: So who might benefit?

Phil: Well, perhaps you’ve been running a business smoothly for some time but feel like now’s the time to expand. Or perhaps you’re stuck in a rut, and you just can’t seem to get out of it. Maybe you’re looking to sell the business and want to make it more attractive for a potential buyer. Or maybe you want to run your business more efficiently in order to improve your work life balance. In short, a TAB board is a great move for every business owner, particularly those who are hungry to improve both professionally and personally. And whether you’re just getting your first business off the ground, or you’ve been around the block a few times, you’ll benefit from a TAB board.

Don’t underestimate the power that a group of like-minded business owners can have when they put their attentions and business knowledge and experience towards the same goals.

Interviewer: How did you come to be involved?

Phil: Okay, so a bit about my story. I started my first company with my business partner James in 2002, and it was literally the two of us in a garage with our business partners. First Mitch and then Alan and Paul. We built two global brands in the professional and audio industry.

Our first company failed.

That’s the short version of a much longer story. But our second succeeded, and we sold it in 2021. We were as thick as thieves. We really were. But even though we supported each other, there were times of extreme stress and loneliness and sometimes it’s difficult to see it when you’re so close to it every day. I do believe that it could have been a smoother ride with some external help and support. That’s what TAB offers to business owners, and that’s why I run my TAB business now.

Interviewer: How do business owners find out more about TAB?

Phil: Well, normally a 30 minute, no obligation conversation over a coffee is enough to find out about each other and to see if there might be a good fit going forward. At The Alternative Board, we help business owners to live better, lead better and achieve more.

So what’s stopping you?

Interview: Thank you, Phil, for joining us on the red sofa today.

It’s been very insightful.

Phil: Thank you very much, Roger, for having me.

It’s been a great experience.

Watch the full interview here

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