• From an article published in the IoD’s July 2016 Magazine “An Astute decision to utilise a non exec director”

    An Astute decision to recruit a non-executive director

    Simon Gray writes…

    Having previously worked in the recruitment industry for many years, I didn’t hesitate when Astute Recruitment approached me to help them refocus and reshape their business. Through Pembridge Gray Limited I work with a select group of clients as a non-executive director and business development trainer and was excited to get started in helping what was already a great business, become even better.

    Sarah Stevenson and Mary Maguire, the founding directors, started their business in tough times. Recruitment is a challenging industry to be in and only the strong and equally determined survive. I was impressed by their energy and ambition, and since January 2015 have worked closely with them in what has become a very enjoyable journey.

    I’ve always believed in keeping things simple. As Leonardo da Vinci said: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. This is a mantra I hold close at heart and for me, successful business is about positioning, promotion and performance. Unique positioning in the recruitment industry can be challenging. Working hard with the director team, we moved from a general offering to become a specialist SME financial recruitment business, recruiting solely for industry.

    What’s more, Astute is the only recruitment business to offer a Triple – Point- Guarantee. If things go wrong, they work with their clients to fix the problem and will penalise themselves financially in the process. This boils down to confidence in the provision of a service second to none and gives comfort to businesses using the services of a recruitment company for the first time.

    With a new website, social media channels and a business development strategy, which has nothing to do with selling, they’ve gained new regional recognition and picked up numerous awards. As an IoD member, I was keen to introduce the director team as new members and incredibly proud to see Sarah win in the category of Director of the Year (SME — Small) at the IoD Awards 2015. Further awards followed closely, including the ICAEW East Midlands Business of the Year.

    I was thrilled to be ‘Highly Commended’ in the category of Non-Executive Director of the Year at the IoD Awards 2016. It was great to see Sarah presenting an award and Mary on the promotional film played at the start, showcasing last year’s awards. 

    A recent event organised by Astute in collaboration with Geldards in Derby, saw former rugby player Neil Back MBE address an audience of 50-plus. Once again this is part of the new strategy to promote the business in the right way. On the performance front Mary and Sarah have invested heavily in training their team and developed a culture of learning and feedback. Every day is an opportunity to get better and to improve — the concept of knizen, which is something I saw on a daily basis while living and working in Japan, is very much alive. In my opinion the role of a non—executive director is to challenge, advise and to encourage the director team to step out of their comfort zone to think differently and constantly improve. I’m excited for the future and will continue to work with Astute Recruitment to help drive their next phase of growth.

    Simon Gray FCA is a non-executive director, business development trainer and founder of Pembridge Gray Limited.

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    Simon Gray of Pembridge Gray Limited chatting with former international rugby star Neil Back, MBE at Astute Recruitment’s recent breakfast event.

    Mary Maguire wrote:-

    “Looking to grow our business to the next level, we appointed Simon Gray in January 2015 as a non-executive director. His expert knowledge across the accountancy recruitment sector across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is second to none, as is his proven knowledge of marketing, branding and positioning for SME businesses. The effective use of a non-executive director cannot be overstated. We’re now clear on our direction of travel, have a plan in place, and it’s helped encourage business owners like Sarah and l to run our business and not let the business run us! In a nutshell, that’s what working with Simon has meant to the business and the great team we have here at Astute.


    Astute sponsors IoD's SME Business Awards 2016
    Astute sponsors IoD’s SME Business Awards 2016


    IoD East Midlands Summer 2016 Magazine – Sarah Stevenson presenting Cuan Forrest of Ellipse Energy

    Winner of IoD’s 2016 SME Business award which Sarah won last year and

    Astute sponsored the award this year.