9th July 2020
By Guy Rigby
It was the summer of 2019 and I had recently changed my role. At the age of 66, and after over 40 years of being on the business front line, I had finally accepted that it was someone else’s turn. I had recently stepped back from my management role at Smith & Williamson, reducing my time commitment and working partly from home, becoming Chairman of the firm’s Entrepreneurs Group that I had started about ten years earlier.
Having driven myself hard for as long as I could remember, I always imagined that I’d feel relaxed and contented when I could take it a bit easier, work a bit less, reduce my stress levels and have more quality time to pursue other interests. After all, what could be more perfect, continuing to work alongside a firm and people I admired and liked, but at my own pace? But now that the time had come, it was evident that it wasn’t that easy.
It quickly became apparent that the thought of winding down and segueing into an unstructured and potentially purposeless future was an anathema. Clearly this was not where 40 odd years of hard work and experience should lead to? Surely there must be better alternatives?!
As a restless and entrepreneurial type (trust me, it’s both an advantage and a disadvantage), one of my guiding principles has been to challenge everything, rather than go with the flow. Hence my motto – “If it isn’t broken, break it”! For those who may be wondering, this is not based on some inner destructive streak, but rather on the belief that there is always a better way. It’s just that we haven’t found it yet.
And that was the beginning. I realised that I needed to make changes and take proper control of my future, rather than letting it take control of me.
I have spent the whole of my life working for, with or alongside entrepreneurs. It has been a great privilege to work with visionary, ambitious and determined people who often take enormous risks to build their businesses, creating a future for themselves and the people they inspire and work with. Like many others, I have come to realise that the contribution made by these passionate, determined individuals is fundamental to our collective well-being.
It figured that I should “stick to my knitting”, building my future around a continuing association with entrepreneurship.
Back in 2011, I had published a book, From Vision to Exit, subtitled as The Entrepreneurs Guide to Building and Selling a Business. In it, I had started to talk about inclusion of the public interest in business decision making. I also talked about measuring a “triple bottom line” (a phrase coined by John Elkington, the founder of SustainAbility) that includes people and planet, as well as profit.
To cut a long story short, my plans began to develop. I figured that alongside my ongoing role at Smith & Williamson, it should be possible for me to continue to work with some of the entrepreneurial individuals that I admire. It should also be possible to do something real to support social entrepreneurship to help change the world for the better.
Quite where the idea for rowing across the Atlantic to raise money for social entrepreneurship came from, I’m not sure, but in July 2019, there it was! It probably had something to do with the fact that I have always enjoyed boats and water and that I’m not the kind of person who could climb Everest or run 40 marathons back-to-back!
I started to socialise the idea and, no surprises, everyone thought I was mad! That was until I spoke to David Murray, the son of one of my oldest friends, who jumped at the idea.
So here we are in July 2020. On the business front, I’m still busy and enjoying life at Smith & Williamson. I’ve also started my own complementary consultancy as Guy Rigby - The Entrepreneurs' Adviser
On the rowing front, we have entered the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, departing from the Canaries on a 3,000 mile adventure in December 2021 and (as things currently stand) attempting to break the record as the oldest pair ever to row an ocean.
“The Entrepreneur Ship” will be raising funds for a charity that finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs, but more about that later…