In episode 5 of our podcast series talking to inspiring charity leaders, we were lucky enough to chat to Anthony Impey MBE, a man that might have started in the commercial world, but has a passion for helping people and created his own social enterprise when he saw action was needed.
He is now the CEO of Be The Business, where they help SMEs drive change and grow. He talks about the importance of marketing to generate interest and how as a leader you should always be looking at yourself to see how you can improve first. It is this sort of dedication to improve and help others that had him awarded an MBE for services to apprentices!
Commercial Experience Helps
Anthony began his commercial life selling stationery out of his school locker, so he has always understood the importance of commerce regards of age and who he is trying to support. His first big boy role was in the telecoms services sector before he realised the number of people in East London without skills or jobs and decided the best thing he could do was create his own social enterprise!
But throughout his career, regardless of the not-for-profit, who he is supporting or the end beneficiaries of the organisation, it is his grounding in the commercial world that makes Anthony such a good charity leader.
You Need A Passion
Anthony strongly believes that working for a not-for-profit is not about wanting to just ‘help’ but having a passion for a specific cause. As so many of the great leaders we have interviewed, he passionately believes in the cause and has always put his heart and soul into each organisation he has worked for - there is a reason he was awarded an MBE for his services to apprentices.
But you cannot do this alone, passion will not solve all the problems and Anthony is a massive believer in mentors. It’s what drove him to introduce them as a core part of Be The Businesses proposition to help leaders, but has also been at the heart of his career.
He firmly believes all the mistakes in his career happened when he didn’t have a mentor. He also believes the mentoring programme helps the mentor as much as the mentee (and as someone that is a mentor on that programme, I completely agree!).
Work Hard AND Smart
He has always looked at small businesses and believed they were critical to the future of the country but recognised that they were never very productive and ultimately this is where Be The Business was born - out of a passion to help.
Anthony is always impressed by how hard small business leaders work, showing unbelievable levels of commitment. They generally work 6-7 days a week (we certainly agree with that at Thirty Three Percent) but this is not the answer to long time success.
It is just as important to work smart, to improve working productivity. This applies to leaders of small charities as well. He believes that anyone looking to startup and run a charity or not-for-profit should focus on the sort of training that helps them work smart, to maximise the time they have at work and the resources they have available to them.
This helps charities to maximise the money going to the people they help and for the leaders to avoid burnout.
His admiration for small businesses has grown exponentially during the pandemic, in particular with how creative they have got. How it has driven them to look at new ways of working.
"In the first 3 months of Lockdown, there was 3 years worth of innovation"
Never Be Afraid Of Sales & Marketing
By coming over from a commercial business, he has always appreciated the power of sales & marketing in the growth of a business and brought that mentality into the not-for-profit world. He believes charities that embrace sales & marketing and get it right, will be the ones that succeed and help the most people because so many are not getting it right.
As he is fond of saying
"Marketing = generating interest. Sales = converting that interest'
And without interest and conversion, you won’t have the funds to help people. As a charity leader, you need to accept this and move forward.
This means thinking like your customer, something standard in the profit world but less so in charity because they don’t like thinking about people as ‘customers’. To ask people to invest in your not-for-profit they need to see the value you deliver and that means understanding those people so you can best articulate your mission in words and actions that appeal to them.
“You need to recognise what your sales process is and that it needs a value proposition as part of it”
It is also important to recognise what others in your space are doing and learn from this. Of course, charities do not compete with each other in the way larger commercial businesses do, but ultimately the amount of funding or grants available are limited and if you believe in your cause you must try and direct it towards your organisation.
Three Big Takeaways
Throughout this podcast series, we have asked our leaders to supply their top three tips for aspiring leaders. Anthony has certainly delivered that below.
Really look at digital and how it can drive your strategy. It's a great equalizer. It’s how you compete with big businesses. NoCode makes it accessible. Look for offers that software places offer to NFP
Review leadership management. Start with yourself. How to improve your leadership skills. Give yourself the space and time to learn and improve. These courses can also stop the loneliness that comes with leadership. Mentorship is a great way of doing that
Enduring conviction. It is tough but you have to stick with it. It's been a tough 18 months but people need to stick at it. It's been tough for everyone, not just you.