Splendid FW news – please welcome Neil Roberts, our new MD!

Post #31: In a break from FW blogging tradition, Claire uses this first blog of 2020 to share some FW news

I must admit, I had wanted to start off this blog with a highlight from my Christmas break – the tartan giraffe. Naturally I would include its relevance to corporate reporting and communications, because after all that’s what you lovely readers come for, and as we say (far too often, perhaps) we must always consider our readers…

However, the tartan giraffe will have to wait. In a break from FW blogging tradition, I am instead using this first blog of 2020 to share some FW news. To be worthy of a blog, our own news must be genuinely of interest to our readers, and let’s face it, the writers arguing about hyphens, or Pete finding a double space – or even a thousand double spaces – in a client’s artwork, while of supreme importance and interest to us, are hardly worthy of a newsflash.

But this news is truly splendid and FW-changing: namely that the wonderful Neil Roberts has joined the team as Managing Director, a new role at FW.

Why an MD, and why now? Because I realised in November that FW, thanks to all our also wonderful clients, had grown beyond my capacity (let alone ability) to manage it. And to be perfectly honest, I never intended to run a business – for me, it was always about just doing the client work, and the writing, which is where my heart really is. Oh, and there was also the tiny matter of writing a book on reporting for the Governance Institute, manuscript due in early Feb (coming along nicely, in case you were wondering). I may muse on another occasion about when and how ‘just doing the client work’ becomes running a business, but for now, I want to tell you more about Neil and how he’s going to be doing great things for everyone in the FW-o-sphere.

It’s probably easiest to explain by describing the unusually serendipitous journey from first thought on Wednesday 6 November to Neil starting on Monday 9 December. It went something like this.

[Extract from CB’s imaginary diary]

Wed 6 Nov

AM: brain frazzled, life too stressful, too much stuff going on – must have lunch with Ashley, he always knows what to do [Hayward, colleague, friend, MD of furniture business and all-round wise person].


Ashley: You know what your problem is, don’t you – you never wanted to run a business. Why don’t you just get someone to do it for you?

Thurs 7 Nov – day of FW party

AM: must talk to Justine, thank goodness she’s just arrived from Zurich.

Me: Justine – I can’t do it all any more, and I want to write my book. I need someone to run the company.

Justine: great idea. Who?

Me: Dunno. It has to be someone who ‘gets’ it. What a shame the brilliant Neil Roberts isn’t free. He’s one of us, he gets communication, understands reporting, has run businesses, has worked with us since the beginning, and also has the added bonus of knowing more about digital than anyone we’ve ever worked with. We need a Neil.

Justine: Indeed we do!

Afternoon – team meeting: everyone keen on the new MD idea, and we decide all the things he or she could do – oversee all the client projects for me; give strategic comms advice to our clients; make sure we’ve got everyone doing the right stuff; help the PMs make sure all the projects are running smoothly; and generally just run the business side of things and ensure we’re doing the right work at the right time. Oh, and do all that future of the company stuff that people who run businesses are supposed to do. Only trouble is, how can we find this incredible person to do all these things…

Evening: amazing fabulousness! Neil spent the evening (which was quite a bash) saying how much he enjoyed the FW annual party because everybody’s always so interesting and inspiring. Then, when we all got chucked out, he told me and Justine that he’s leaving Investis Digital!

Justine: the stars are aligning…

Fri 8 Nov

Tea at the Covent Garden Hotel (they do really good Lapsang Souchong): Justine brings her excellent graphic showing the FW universe, the Claire universe, and what the new MD might do. We invite Neil for tea on Tuesday. Everything crossed.

Tues 12 Nov

Tea (ditto): He’s really leaving! He’s interested!


Early Dec

Tea (which becomes drinks – they do really good champagne too) at the Covent Garden Hotel: Neil’s analysed the company and what he thinks we need (he’s right), and written a job description (it’s spot on and doesn’t include any horrible words like key performance indicators or deliverables)… I was going to ask him ‘what would make you not join the team’ but I can’t be bothered with the extra words – so I just ask, ‘are you going to join then?’

We agree that the resulting two glasses of Laurent Perrier (rosé) are far more binding than any signatures on bits of paper. He is definitely one of us.

I have the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months.

Mon 9 Dec

It’s my brother’s 50th birthday today. What an auspicious day. Neil starts – hurrah.

[end of extract]

Our new website is coming very soon (with Neil being a digital whiz we decided to pause its launch until he could opine), but in the meantime do look Neil up on LinkedIn if you want to read more about him.

And I promise that the tartan giraffe will make an appearance at some point in 2020. Must just get a book written…

Oh yes – and of course, happy new year to you all!

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