Tell us a bit more about your career to date; How did you come to write The Inner CEO?
I began my career at Procter and Gamble in a role selling chip fat and toilet cleaner which I can say I still look back on as a great example to positively engage with customers! In my next steps I worked with Walkers Crisps / PepsiCo before transitioning into consulting, training and human capital leadership. My recent experience has led me into an international workplace, working in the majority of the leading world markets.
Having moved to Singapore in 2011, I had the opportunity to start a new Asia pacific business. Moving forward 10 years I am located back in the UK, and am still looking back on my previous experiences and knowledge I have built to run my own business.
How has your background working across global markets given you a new understanding of the roles within a company?
My first international roles exposed me to matrixed organisational structures. On reflection, particularly for large multinational companies, the matrix approach seemed like the most suited structure to truly allow a cross pollination of ideas, co-working and collaboration; by better transcending traditional barriers and borders. This in turn opened my eyes to the possibilities of ‘going beyond’ regardless of job description or core role. Something I have embraced as an individual contributor and a leader.
During my most recent experience living and working across Asia pacific, from my base in Singapore, I was exposed to all sorts. The common denominator in many markets was very much a hierarchical organisational structure, power in the hands of the few and more command and control. This meant job roles at most levels were nothing more than cogs in the wheel, responding to the leaders within the business rather than the trends in the market or the voice of the customer. That said, there were hugely enlightened companies and leaders who knew that traditional practices could be replaced by new thinking, enabled by digital tech and tools and built around the human centre of the organisation. This is my own approach and the way I look at my business now, in terms of job roles, is very different to the traditional, hierarchical approaches above.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
I have found combining attributes such as business health, the human touch and community commitment have been elements of my success I am proud of. Always working towards maintaining a balance between purpose and profit has led me to take an active interest and commitment to the wider communities which I work and has given me the opportunity to be in the position to financially support global causes. In fact, I donate 5% of my annual profits as a minimum to causes around the world, including schools in South East Asia, A community website in Greater Manchester, UK; supporting the communities impacted by the bushfires of 2019/20 in Australia and more.
What has been your biggest business challenge and how did you overcome it?
Taking the leap and making the decision to depart from my previous company and setting up my own globalised business from scratch. Having committed 17 years to the company and being a part of their growth and success I had become a part of a strong internal network who felt my departure was deemed as disloyal. So instead of this network being an asset in my next steps, it was taken out of the equation. Looking back, this turned out to be the best outcome as without knowing at the time it led me to rethink my positioning and focus. A focus that allowed me to rapidly develop and grow my own path of focus behind my passion and an increasing market need. That of business and workforce transformation.
By looking globally as a start up, it led me to challenge traditional business set up practices and thinking. For example, I operate across 4 continents with 100% contingent workforce. A workforce partly built from expertise within the Gig Economy and partly through my consulting and learning professional network. This meant I could rapidly build the profile and support the set up of the business, while immediately going to market, creating a pipeline, with ready expert resources to populate projects and contracts which we secured early on. This foundation was invaluable in my fast start, and while challenging at the time, is something I share in my own business networks and groups as a ‘think different’ opportunity in terms of ways to operate, scale and go global from day 1.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
One of my relatives, Dennis Viollet, played for Manchester United football club. Some may recognise the name and rightly so. He was a great. A Busby Babe. He was also one of the most prolific strikers in the history of the club. In fact, he still holds the record for the most amount of league goals scored in a season. 32 goals in 1959/60 – a record still not topped today (considering Rooney, Van Nistelroy, Becks, Giggsy, Law, Charlton, Best etc). Even more remarkable when you consider this record was achieved in the new season following the tragic Munich Air Crash of 1958. Dennis was one of the lucky survivors and immersed himself back in the club and the playing field, becoming Club Captain, before leaving for an equally valued playing career at Stoke City and then being known as one of the pioneers of the soccer explosion in the late 1970s in the US. He lived in Florida for the rest of his life, where he was fondly known as Coach Viollet. I had the privilege of attending a couple of his soccer camps over the summer (The talent does not run in my genes I can confirm!).
Always an inspiration and always a sobering reminder of what can be achieved out of adversity, challenge and the unknown. Achievement carried with humility and grace as you might expect from a true great. Something I am humbled by and try to live my life by.
What is your motto in business?
I’m not really one for a motivational quote but I do love and appreciate the daily sayings you might hear amongst conversation, such as recently while in a session focusing on new ideas a colleague said ‘Let’s throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks’ which certainly has stuck.
That being said, I have always held onto a quote and book from Susan Jeffers in relation to sales; ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’!
What are your top three pieces of advice for any business leaders right now?
-Be prepared to unlearn, relearn and develop yourself for the modern workplace
-Embrace human-centred leadership as you would the focus on the bottom line.
-Adopt digital to supercharge greater levels of collaboration, communication and empowered working internally and with your customers.
What are your plans for the future?
Looking to the future, I will continue to grow my business through focus on supporting my customers to transform their workforce to be ready and skilled for the decade ahead. I will do this while protecting elements such as balancing purpose with profit and building community commitment. I will also continue in my efforts for research-centred solutioneering and dedicating time to build mutually value adding networks, relationships and partnerships. This is where all of my business comes from and I can’t over exaggerate the power of social networking and putting yourself out there. It’s so important for modern leaders to speak to the industry, to experts and peers, as much as their organisation and customers. It has also been an exciting time having launched my book ‘The Inner CEO’ which is providing a great platform for the next stages of my entrepreneurial journey introducing me as an authority on empowered working. My mission is to make ‘Leadership at all levels’ a reality and become the ‘go to’ expert in the field, globally. This will further fuel the evolution of my business, in parallel with the other transformational solutions I am committed to.
About Jeremy Blain
Jeremy Blain is the Chief Executive of PerformanceWorks International (PWI), a company that helps organisations, executive boards, leaders and teams succeed in the digital climate and to embed the required skills for successful modernisation. Jeremy combines leadership know-how as an international CEO and executive board officer in the UK and Asia with his experience as a learning and human capital professional of over 20 years. For seven years Jeremy was CEO for an international consultancy company based in Singapore, operating from India to the Pacific.
Jeremy was named International GameChanger© of the year for 2020 in the ACQ5 Global Awards for his work on digital transformation, HR transformation and workforce transformation. He is a regular keynote speaker, media commentator and the author of over 30 industry white papers.