When I founded All Together back in March, it was an immediate response to the impending COVID-19 crisis facing most businesses. While mid-sized and large firms had the extensive management skills, experiences and networks to figure out their crisis plan and strategic response, many CEOs of smaller businesses were facing a wall of excruciating and difficult decisions, with few people to turn to for help. We hoped that by pairing the business owner or CEO of a small business with a more established current or former CEO we could help the wider business community survive and thrive post COVID.
A Flying Start
From concept to launch in only six days, I wasn’t sure in the beginning what exactly we were going to be (was it coaching, mentoring or advising? I used all three verbs interchangeably), nor whether there would be a need for what we were doing beyond the initial crisis. And I certainly didn’t have any idea how we would pay to support this service if it was a success.
The idea of All Together certainly hit a zeitgeist. We had over 200 people offer to volunteer with us, and have already supported around 150 CEOs of small businesses. We are on track to support another 100 or so CEOs every quarter going forward.
We Learned a Lot
This summer, with the help of a dozen or so of our Volunteer Advisors, we looked at our results and the feedback we were getting, and concluded three things:
What we do is actually clear, and simple: we give – for free – high quality advice and support to CEOs of small businesses from some of the UK’s best CEOs, usually from their own industry.
What we do – CEO to CEO advice and support – was specific and unique in a market full of offers from coaching and mentoring organisations. And, from the feedback, we could also tell it was invaluable. Not just for crisis management, but beyond that. Being a CEO is a lonely job at the best of times, and so whatever the COVID impact, all our clients have thrived on the support and guidance of a more experienced CEO colleague.
That it costs us about £250 to connect each CEO with a Volunteer Advisor – a small amount of money for a big impact.
Day 2 Starts Now
Taking these insights, I’m delighted to announce today that All Together is moving in to Day 2 of its story, institutionalising ourselves as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, and re-launching our website with a clear call-out to the business owners and CEOs of SMEs that we are ready and able to help. The initial shock of COVID-19 may have passed, but the crisis hasn’t. And CEOs are continuing to be challenged by some tough business decisions and consistent uncertainty.
We are living up to the values of the CEO community we are building: enabling and encouraging a collective of CEOs to support and help each other.
We are also introducing a simple “Pay it Forward” proposition to the small business CEOs we want to help: Our Volunteer Advisors are giving their time for free, so if, after your sessions, you conclude they provided valuable advice and support, then we ask you to Pay it Forward. This means contributing a voluntary £250 to All Together to fund another CEO’s access to the support you enjoyed.
We recognise, of course, that not every SME can afford even this, so it will be entirely voluntary and we won’t hassle anyone to contribute. But, by funding our proposition in this way, we are living up to the values of the CEO community we are building: enabling and encouraging a collective of CEOs to support and help each other.
Finally, we’ve added to our team, created an independent board of our asset-locked Community Interest Company, and have a growing Advisory Board.
The CEO Collective
We couldn’t be more excited to continue our work, and with the help of everyone in the All Together Collective, accelerate our impact bringing much needed advice and support to CEOs of small businesses up and down the country.