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“You learn far more about yourself in hard times”

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Name:

Charlie Horrell

Role and company:

Managing Director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Diligent Boardbooks Ltd.

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

Global company revenue for FY2012 was $44m with profit after tax of $9m

Employee numbers:

Our parent company had 164 employees globally at the end of FY12.

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

As a subsidiary of a publicly quoted company we do not provide these figures. However,the company will continue to invest heavily in research and development to further enhance our product offering.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace?

Diligent makes the flow of confidential info between companies and their directors much simpler. Our quality of service, and the product’s simplicity and security, differentiate us from both traditional paper and electronic document distribution, ensuring that directors get the information they need, when they need it.

What’s the big vision for your business?

It is an exciting time for Diligent. In EMEA, we aim to be the default method for passing confidential information to directors and executives, whilst continuing to deliver outstanding customer service and security. With 34 of the FTSE 100 amongst our client base and historical growth in Europe,we want to help revolutionise the boardroom by constantly delivering on innovation.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 
As a US headquartered business operating in the UK we are inherently international. The UK is our largest market in the EU. We also have a diverse client base in fifteen countries in EMEA .Our parent company’s operations and customer support in the Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEA ensure that we serve directors globally, 24/7.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

My biggest career lesson came when I was CEO of a business in France which ultimately I had to put into administration. I came away from that experience knowing that you learn far more about yourself and those around you, in hard times, than you do in good times. Everyone can be well-mannered and make good decisions when the situation is easy,but it is when times are hard that you get to see the true character of people, myself included.

What makes you mad in business today?

The overload of unnecessary communication.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

In many of our markets the idea of a portal to distribute board papers is widely accepted. In the next three years, I expect this to be the case EMEA wide.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Thankfully we are profitable and a lack of finance is not an issue we are contending with.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Probably that I have a “Don’t have a dog and bark yourself” approach. I hire people for a job and trust them to get on with it, asking them what they need rather than continuously second guessing or micro managing them. Let their results speak for themselves.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Kids!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

I know many people would say cut red tape but from my perspective we are not subject to specific regulation, or riddled with health and safety issues, so the UK is comparatively light touch.

However one thing the UK lacks is people with an ability to work in Europe. Linguistically and culturally the majority of us here are utter islanders. We have to employ workers from outside the UK to be able to work effectively when dealing with business in other countries.

There is also a case to be made for more sensibly using tax regimes to incentivise young companies to set up – expanding R&D grants, reducing NI, and creating better tax breaks on hiring people. These would all need a cap based on company size, fixed durations and appropriate tapers to prevent a future growth disincentive but would together provide valuable help in the early stages.

So, my targets would be boosting language teaching in schools, improving tax arrangements, and finally asking for rapidly establishing a predictable long term future relationship with the EU – uncertainty adds complexity to business.

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