Business support service Inspire has launched its new Virtual Board service aimed specifically at South West SMEs who need access to high-profile Non-Executive Directors (NEDs)

Inspire has brought together a group of 18 NEDs that have huge experience in growing businesses at senior corporate level and scaling their own businesses.

Rob Perks, Inspire’s CEO, explained: “Many of our members are at a stage in their growth where access to a carefully selected group of NEDs would be really valuable.”

“So, we have worked hard to put together a group of credible individuals who are interested in supporting SMEs.”

“Our Inspired Board is made up of a dynamic group of NEDs that cover a wide range of skills, including anything from legal experience and mergers and acquisitions to project management and marketing.

“We will identify which of them will match the skillset and experience our members are looking for and bring them to the table at an affordable cost.”

Filling the gaps

In the Scale Up Institute’s 2019 report, accessing the right kind of experience people to help grow a business came in as one of the top two things CEOs and MDs have specified as desirable but quite difficult to achieve.

“The Virtual Board came out of an answer to that challenge – how do we solve that for SMEs in a way that is affordable, viable, practical, and delivers what they need,” explained Rob.

“A good NED board should fill the gaps that might be missing in a business, after all people don’t know what they don’t know.”

“This concept combines the experience of people inside a business with a wealth of experience outside of it and will allow SMEs to acquire the skills they need to fill any gaps and drive their business forward.”

How does it work?

The cost is £2,500 per year per board advisor and the board will provide an exploratory initial face to face meeting, quarterly virtual board meetings of up to two hours each and phone contact between meetings.

If a member feels they would benefit from more time with their advisor then this can be sorted out between them. And if after six months a member feels they need a new voice for a different challenge, then Inspire can take someone out and replace them depending on the need.

“The important thing about the virtual board is that it provides the quality and value at a price SMEs can afford,” said Rob.

“Your most unskilled member of staff may be on a salary of say, £12,000 but for two thousand pounds less you could have four incredibly experienced people with lots of good contacts that can add and deliver massive value to your business.”

Another attraction is that the West of England combined authority, covering Bath and Bristol and the surrounding area, can attract a grant for 50 percent of the cost of your NED up to £5,000.

A view from the Board

Clare Stantiall, a wealth management professional with 35 years’ experience in financial services, is one of the NEDs on the Inspired Board.

“The Virtual Board is a really interesting and innovative proposition as it will provide remote access for members to a group of experienced NEDs with a wide range of expertise.

A lot of businesses here will have started very small, they have a great product and a great proposition, but they have got to the point where they may need a more mature business model.

The Virtual Board provides access to a wider range of people with a broader range of skills and will also widen the reach of your company geographically. It can have a real effect on your business and its growth.

More and more happens in the virtual world, people are comfortable interacting in it so it’s becoming quite normal.

Being based in London means it’s hard for me to come to the West Country very often, but the fact that I can be on the end of a phone for a conference call, or on Skype, makes it easy.

I am passionate about business transformation, change management and ensuring businesses are running in an efficient way and the skills I have are perfect to utilise on the Inspired Board.”

The perfect proposition

Finding the right people to help take your business to the next level for a reasonable cost can be challenging.

“When you look for a NED you either employ someone to go and find you one or you use a specialist agency to do it. Both can be very expensive, and you very rarely get the right fit first time,” added Rob.

“We don’t think there’s anything out there we’ve seen that’s quite the same as this service.”

For more information, call 01172 034288 or email via

©️ Copyright 2020 The Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce t/a Inspire

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