Feb 26, 2024 Nurole logo
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CEOs: how the best boards and advisors add value to their most senior executive, with Wais Shaifta

🎙️ You can listen to the full podcast interview with Wais on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Wais is CEO / former CEO of PrivateDoc and Push Doctor, and NED & Committee Chair at Snappy Shopper, Reach Plc and The Gym Group. Listen to his conversation with Nurole CEO Oliver Cummings to hear his answers to:

  • How did the Push Doctor board add most value to you as CEO? (1:24)
  • Did you ever get frustrated by board members from big business not understanding the realities of early-stage organisations? (3:58)
  • How did you keep your board engaged? (7:13)
  • How did the board add value beyond their contributions to revenue? (9:54)
  • How have the best boards supported you through challenging times as a CEO? (13:23)
  • How did you think about changing your advisory board members? (21:20)
  • How did you think about the advisory board’s ROI? (22:25)
  • How did the advisory board fit alongside the main board? (25:07)
  • What have you learnt about adversity, as a CEO and non-exec, which others might benefit from? (26:13)
  • How do you think about time management as a CEO and non-exec? (30:21)
  • Why do you sit on listed boards? (34:11), and
  • ⚡The Lightning Round ⚡(36:51) 

*This is an AI-generated transcript and will contain inaccuracies*

[00:00:00] Oliver Cummings: Hello and welcome to another episode of Enter the Boardroom with Neurol, the business podcast that brings the boardroom to you. I'm your host, Oliver Cummings, CEO of Neurol, the board search specialist and market leader bringing science to the art of board hiring. 

I wanted to take a moment before we start to say thank you. For all the support and positive feedback on the podcast, one recent comment from at yo via Gill stood out, which highlighted finding a mentor in Enter the Boardroom. 

If anyone listening is interested in finding a traditional in-person, mentor, do consider joining the neural board community, which you can find@community.new.com.

For just 29 a month, we have created a space where you can get matched with a mentor, as well as learn, grow your board network, and tap into the hive mind of over 60, 000 board members in real time.

Today's guest, Weiss Schaefter, is CEO of Private Doc [00:01:00] and Non Executive Director at Reach PLC, Snappy Shopper, and The Gym Group where he chairs the Remuneration and Sustainability Committee. He is also an operating partner for Samipata, a VC fund based in Madrid. Formerly, he was CEO of Pushdoctor, a health tech company at the forefront of the COVID 19 response. Weiss, a huge welcome and thank you so much for joining us today.

Wais Shaifta: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. 

Oliver Cummings: Weiss, in the last six years, you've engaged with boards from a wide range of angles. In 2017, you became CEO of Pushdoctor. In 2021, while still a CEO, you took on a non exec role with a gym group. After leaving Pushdoctor, you took on another non exec role at Reach.

And for a couple of years, you were a Portfolio Ned. Then, earlier this year, you decided to take on another CEO role.

 I'd love to hear more about those experiences, starting with your time working with the board as CEO of Pushdoctor. Could you just start by giving me a bit of a sense of how [00:02:00] you used your board as a CEO?

Wais Shaifta: The board at Pushdoctor was very, very diverse. At its core, you had a lady called Suzanne Given, who is our chair. Absolutely, I used to call her proper, like she was real proper. For early stage businesses, you typically don't get a chair like that, with that level of credibility, sat on the board of Beloit Co op.

So you had a very, very strong chair, and then you had our board, so we had Draper Esprit, which is a publicly listed fund now actually Moulton Ventures. So you had publicly listed. Group. Then you had ADV accelerated digital ventures, typically invest in early size businesses, sort of an arm of legal in general.

And then you had Oxford capital early stage investment, probably typical check sizes 1 to 5 million. So you have these typical. You had this diverse group of individuals coming together. 

And for me, at the stage that we were at business very early on, one, one and a bit million in revenue, and you had individuals which have ran businesses trading over billions of pounds, and you [00:03:00] had others who had never seen more than 10, 10 million in revenue.

For me, it was great because I could tap into networks at a very, very high level and then I can tap into just where the company was. I always based it on two things. I think the most valuable thing my board always brought to me at Push Doctor was networking.

It opened doors for me. They all had a very, very good black book across every single level within healthcare. And I could get into a room with, at the time it was Matt Hancock, who was the health secretary. I can get into a room with Matt Hancock through our board, and or I can talk to an NHS. local NHSGP through our board as well. .

The other part was fundraising. All of them had very, very strong networks when it came to fundraising. We'd always engage with financial brokers, but being able to go to your board and, and really get into rooms with some really, really credible funds. Was powerful. And those were the typical two things which I found the most valuable and in the respectful terms used my board for.

Oliver Cummings: I love that. That's great [00:04:00] to hear because often one of the things I hear when I talk with high growth CEOs is when they get those what you call proper board members is they can sometimes be too removed from that stage of organization and they're just out of touch. 

And I think various board members I've spoken with whose views I sort of value of, of counsel, getting someone rather than trying to find that person who has reached the billion dollar.

Stage when if you're at five or ten million stage you want the person who's just the next level up because better to have someone who's Right right now And then change them over every couple of years rather than finding someone who's the sort of unicorn who's perfect for the whole journey which is incredibly rare and so often what people end up doing is compromising and finding someone who's quite good for the whole journey rather than brilliant for right now it sounds like that wasn't Your experience or [00:05:00] how where did did you have frustrations ever with some of those who came from those big business backgrounds not relating to Some of the realities of running a business at that stage.

Wais Shaifta: The key thing for me is knowing your role as a CEO. Typically board members would get more involved where there is a concern, or be as a CEO, you're not being transparent and clear. So I would always look at it as my responsibility as a CEO. I feel as though I know the vision of the company. I've set out the strategy. We've put out the vision. We feel as though we know how to execute on that plan. So now I need to communicate that.

And now I need to ask my board members and I treat them as I would my direct team, how can you help us to get to that plan? Okay, you, you know, Matt Hancock, we're trying to launch a new platform, which partners with the NHS. We need some government funding. Hey, who better than Matt Hancock to talk to that about?

Now, we're also not naive enough to think that Matt Hancock is going to sign us off and it's going to be implemented tomorrow. But having that government level [00:06:00] relationship is very, very powerful. Okay, well, we know if we're going to launch a product in the NHS, we've got to talk to the local GP. How do you talk to a local GP? How do you do it? If a board member can help with that, fantastic. If they can't, I'll get somebody within the team who can support with that.

And what I've also found is, the best boards work with being part of that team. Now it is very, very important to keep that, I don't call it a barrier, but to keep that space, they're not the operating team. They are board members, but letting board members. feel valuable, but also letting them know how they can help you is very, very important. 

Otherwise, I think board member default goes to, okay, well let me check the accounts. Let me check the financial metrics. Let me just make, and then I think that insensitivities come as a consequence of that. And it always kicks off when there's a restructure within the organization.

And I've always found board members are less sensitive to a restructure where they don't know what's being built and the CEO hasn't done had or given their responsibility on, you know, this is how we need [00:07:00] to grow. This is why we need to grow like that. So I, I'd always put it back to as a CEO's responsibility to get every single person, board member, direct employees, customers, suppliers, all on board on the journey you're about to go on.

Oliver Cummings: And how did you go about that? There's one CEO I know who sends an email around, I think every week, basically outlining the value that each board member has contributed as a way to encouraging board members and creating a sort of competitive dynamic almost between them to make sure they're all adding values.

But in practice, what did you do to make those expectations clear? Because it's very easy, I think, for board members to disappear in between board meetings if they're not properly managed and engaged. 

Wais Shaifta: I didn't get it right all the time. But at the same time, there was always a standard monthly board meeting. There was In between conversations i'd have with them The one thing that I always found helpful was the action list of the first slide of your your debt Because wherever you are in what [00:08:00] whatever position you're in if i've spoken to oliver and i've said hey oliver We spoke at a last board meeting about you introducing us to the chair of the NHS and you haven't done it and it gets called out in front of people and peers at every level that that that goes somewhere.

 I didn't do that thing around weekly emails. I might do that going forward because that's that's a really good thing to do. But I would engage with them by phone. I found email wasn't the best tool because you had the better board members who read emails, responded to emails, but really everybody was always better on phone and WhatsApp. So I'd always WhatsApp.

And if they're not responding to me, then I'd always go to our chair and say, Hey, chair. Person X, you know, we really need this person for this. If they don't have the time, then we really need to push for somebody who has the time, because ultimately, these are our needs. The chair can really supports a really. Getting the support of your chair is very important as well.

Oliver Cummings: Yeah, that's a great point. Actually, that's one of the most common reasons. I see founders and early stage, ceos Struggling with their boards is because they don't [00:09:00] understand that It's the chair's role to manage the board and it's their role to run the business. And they end up trying to do both which is a really difficult thing to do.

Wais Shaifta: Just another point on that in terms of engagement. If board members are excited of your company, your vision, your growth, potential, your execution, they will spend more time with you. 

They tend to get disengaged, if you're not engaged with them, if you're not connecting with them, if you're not emailing them, they may get disengaged, but ultimately, if performance is not good, they would then probably place their bets or spend more time with the ones who are achieving and go well. So I think the key thing for me is getting people excited about the journey you're going on.

Hey, you know, we're just about to partner with the NHS. There's gonna be the First NHS contract with the private provider out there. Oh my God, we're going to be the NHS and larger students upon it. We've just won a contract. You know, all this stuff I think is very, very important. And in between showing those good news, it just gets people engaged.

Oliver Cummings: I love that. I think people sometimes forget that board members are humans too. And it's like with your team, with the executive team, if you [00:10:00] haven't engaged them and got them excited about the vision and the purpose, you're never going to get the best out of them.

You touched about the value that they bring and touch particularly on the networks. And it sounds like most of the examples you gave there related to top line growth: sales, new customers, was that where you got most value? Or was it across other stakeholders as well? And were there also areas you got value, where rather than you asking for the help, they were bringing to you or identifying to you the things that you weren't aware of? 

Wais Shaifta: The one I always struggled with- and I've rarely seen it work well- is the employee recommendation piece. And the reason that is, is there's always this weird scenario of board member has said, Hey, maybe you should talk to this resource. I don't know if you're looking for a CMO. Hey, I used to work for the CMO in a previous company.

There's always this really weird. And it shouldn't be like that. But from everywhere I've seen, there's always been this bit of a weird. Oh, is this this person spy and they're coming in to look at the company [00:11:00] and there's just this really weird feeling. 

But in terms of the other areas of value, these funds do work with incredible other companies. one simple example is that push doctor we had you know healthcare, we want to bring in a mental health company to integrate with our platform. And we looked at one of our other funds and they invested in numerous different mental health companies.

We were like, well, what's the point of going out there? You know, this is low hanging fruit. Let's speak to that CEO, same investors. Let's integrate the product and let's move forward with that. So I think, you know, outside of the top line stuff, I'd always look at some of the other companies they've invested in.

And usually within them, you get strong founders, strong propositions. And then when you start looking at your operational stuff, commercial modeling, subscription modeling, et cetera, you can share all of that. You have a network there to share it with and again, with a respectful way of saying this, I'd use our board to say, you know, who are your top five performers on your fund?

Who's smashing out of the park? Who's similar to us? And I think that's a resource that people, [00:12:00] particularly in CEO operating roles, forget about boards. That's what they can support you with. And in theory, through their own connections and through the companies they're invested in, you should have a connection to any supplier, any customer acquisition ideology, any marketing plan, any project plan. It's all there. it's essentially you going out there and being vocal about it and not being too shy.

Oliver Cummings: Yeah, that's really interesting. I just sometimes hear from CEOs again. Often it is in the scale up space saying, Oh, our investor directors don't know anything about the industry. They're adding no value.

And my response to that is normally, I think you're probably asking them the wrong questions because they are out there day in day out. As you say, with their portfolio, but not just with the portfolio, looking at new investment opportunities, and they can be such valuable cross pollinators to bring best practice from other areas if you tap into that resource.

So I think people miss a lot of that opportunity. You say you don't like the individual kind of employee recommendation, which I can understand, but one thing I've sometimes found helpful is when someone [00:13:00] recommends a supplier to me. we had a bottleneck on hiring enough good engineers at one point, and we just couldn't find them. 

And one of our board members said, well, look, here's someone who I know has helped these other companies build a really good pipeline of high quality. And suddenly that problem was gone.

Wais Shaifta: Absolutely. I mean, it's definitely there. It's just sometimes weird. And, and, and it shouldn't be because again, as a tool, it should work out for you. 

Oliver Cummings: I was talking to a board member recently who saying a good, good board member will challenge when things are going well and be supportive when things are not going so well and the bad board members typically do the opposite. 

You went through what I imagine must have been quite a challenging period with the cqc the care quality commission, which raised various checks around users, ages and identities and the way the prescriptions were working. Can you talk us through that challenge and the role the board played for you during that?

Wais Shaifta: Yeah [00:14:00] absolutely. It was an interesting time in healthcare overall. 2017 healthcare was evolving, but nobody has supported the regulator the CQC in coming up to the change. Typically they would go to an NHS practice, and they would judge whether or not they're given safe services or not.

Now going into the whole online world at that point is ourselves and Babylon health. We both launched around 2013 14. So there was this there was this huge change in consumer behavior and desire, and two operators doing it, with the CQC not having the necessary training from the NHS, from ourselves and others to do that.

When the CQC first came to our office, they said, "okay, where's the waiting room?" We said excuse us, a waiting room. And we said, Do you kind of know what we do? And so that was area number one.

And in the area number two, when we're looking at files, they said, "okay, well, let's start looking at some patient files. Where are things?" Well, [00:15:00] they're in the cloud, they're stored in our servers, they say, excuse me, and they didn't understand the security of servers of things being in the cloud. So because we didn't have folders in filing cabinets, That was also deemed as unsafe because that's what they were used to at practice and this was absolutely nobody's fault.

And then when it came to actually prescribing so actually using the platform and prescribing and so on, you know, that was a learning for us as a company. When it came to the regulator coming and saying us and other providers were not safe, you know, the CQC's role is is is not to shut anybody down. They genuinely felt the patient harm is possible and they put you on a plan.

Now you have two ways of responding to that plan. You can either respond injunction, blasphemy, and really go and fight the CQC. And all you can say, Hey, hold on a second. Look, it is quite clear that things are moving fast. It is quite clear that the demographic that comes [00:16:00] to us is a different demographic that comes to practice it's a completely different audience, and it's a completely different way of caring for those audiences.

We had a decision to make, what do we do? And the one thing I was very passionate about, the team was very passionate about, and our board was very passionate about was, let's work in partnership with the regulator. 

And within that, we were fortunate. One of the board members we had from Draper Esprit Molten Ventures was a GP doctor before he went to the venture world. Dr. Vishal Gulati, he was quite pivotal in that because he said, look, I'm actually not surprised by the results. It's not that I'm not surprised because you're not providing a safe platform because you are. What I'm not surprised about is how you've communicated the message in their talk because you've done it in digital tech talk. 

And also as a CEO of a, of a health tech company, my previous background, I'm not dr Weiss. I've got referred to as dr Weiss plenty of times, but unfortunately I'm not a doctor. I'm from the just eat world. I'm from the treat world world. I'm digital marketplace world. 

And I think as a board [00:17:00] collectively with Vishal, with Suzanne, our chair, we said, actually, we're going to require some additional support. And how do we do that? Let's set up a new advisory board and that advisory board would be a specific NHS advisory board. 

So work side by side with our boards, but that advisory board will be somebody with a group with different skill sets. So it would have NHS skill set, governmental skill set, regulatory skill set. And let's just have them really input to the team. 

So we actually went out and said let's work with the regulator and be very, very strong in the communications with that. But let's start creating an advisory board. And actually, we were very fortunate enough to get a gen called Ed Smith, a previous chair of NHS England who was our chair of that advisory board.

And we bought people such as Nicola Blackwood, parliamentary under the secretary of state. At the time, we had a lady Pauline who ran a hospital under the CQC. We had a pharmacist on the board, we had a gent called Matt Campbell Hill.

So we had different specialities and that really [00:18:00] helped our governance because the first thing they advised us to do, which is the right thing to do, was you've got to build an in house clinical team. Now, I thought we had a very good in house clinical team and I said, no, you've got to really widen that you've got to bring different profiles, different skill sets more numbers, and actually at a granular level, you've got to do more audits.

And it was just this whole area, which, to be honest, as an individual, I wasn't aware of. And bringing all these new bodies really, really supported us with it. And in following that we got re inspected, I believe it was in 2018, and we got a good rating, we were the highest rated digital provider in the space, we were the safest provider in the space, and actually that allowed us to grow significantly within the NHS, because as being the first, as working in partnership, being able to go to tender for NHS contracts, we were able to say, hey, we are the first, the only, and the safest.

group as per the CQC. Our board member, Dr. Vishal Gulati, you know, he sits on our main board, important instrumental, previous [00:19:00] GP. We've got an advisory board chaired by Ed Smith, previous chair of NHS England. You know, we just gave all the comfort in the world. 

We have Brought in a newly created governance team led by Dr. Called Dr. Dan Bunton. He is, he, he was a chair of a of a of A CCG. Very, very seasoned. The practices, he chaired that they, they were CQC regulated, so just from top to bottom we had governance, governance, governance throughout the spine of the organization. And surprise, surprise, the next inspection came in and we got a, we got a really good rating and that was quite pivotal 'cause that started the feud of our growth within the NHS.

Oliver Cummings: What a great story and a textbook case study of the power of creating advisory board. I am always advocating to CEOs the power of an advisory board when you've got a specific problem You bring in the dream team and it sounds like you had the dream team there People who can just come in and turbo you through the challenge.

Wais Shaifta: The two briefs with them where we need to get CQC good [00:20:00] rating and we want to expand the NHS. How do we do it? And actually that went through all of our documentation. So. When me and the business development team would start preparing our pitch to the nhs How we'd go for tender before we we went out there We do in front of this audience and then they'll come back and they'll give us All the pointers so I think if you can really relay, you know the needs of your company to the Skill set that the advisory board or main board have then you're onto a real winner now If i'm being completely honest the moment we hit six million patients within the NHS.

We grew extremely fast, 7 over 6 million. The moment we were CQC good, about to go to CQC outstanding, there was a point of, oh, the advisory board has sort of served its purpose. And then you recreate and we let board members go and we brought in new board members, which said actually now we're going in a new direction.

And in this new direction, we need a different profile. So we've got a lot more focused on data. We started integration with NHS health records [00:21:00] and we had to start getting to more data focus, more wearables and, and how does that world look like? And we started bringing in data specialists, NHS X got incorporated in what we did, NHS digital.

And again, working with a chair, I sat down with Ed and I said, Ed, do you feel as though the board has run its course? And the perfect response I got from him was, I do too. 

Oliver Cummings: Again, it sounds like an absolute textbook case study of cycling through advisory board members, quickly. Because I think so many organizations make the mistake of having people for like nine years when actually their useful life is two.

Especially the earlier stage you are in a business's life cycle. I think that changes over more quickly. I'm curious to hear how you thought about the return on investment. In that board, number one and number two, how that advisory board interfaced with your main board and how you handled that. 

Wais Shaifta: From a cost perspective, fortunately it was either pro bono and relatively low [00:22:00] cost, maybe some equity, with certain numbers. So, I mean, from a cost perspective, really having That type of advisory board, which should have cost the business probably a million per annum, actually was very, very minimal. You had individuals there who were passionate about digital healthcare, passionate about what we were doing and very excited to be associated with our brand.

So from a custom perspective, it was quite smooth to run and didn't really impact us from a, how it functioned with the main board. 

Oliver Cummings: And just before you go into that, I'm interested to think, because that's by the way, a very common theme that I think these advisory boards are massively underpriced because there are so many people who just are passionate about helping. what about the benefit? How do you quantify the value that they added?

Wais Shaifta: It wasn't the making and breaking of the organization, but it would have taken us longer to get to where we wanted to get to if it hadn't been for our advisory board. I think if we didn't get them in at that point, because particularly with the NHS world, typically how you grow within the NHS is NHS puts out a tender and you're pitching for the tender. 

And [00:23:00] at that point in 2017, 18, it's a bit of a risk digital healthcare company, private digital healthcare company comes in and typically how the tenders work and maybe speaking out of turn here, but typically how they work is they know some local tech people, local groups, which can ultimately serve the purpose they need.

So you're already kind of going into these tenders with, You're new, you know, you're, you're, you're different to what they used to, and you're preaching a different message to what they used to, and, you know, it's easy for me, and this is actually another quick learning from, from my perspective, it's easy for me to go into a room and start pitching and getting people excited about growth trajectory and etc.

In the NHS world. That is worrying. That is, oh my God, safeguarding issues, potential casualties you know, if these guys are going to have hyper growth and, and it's going to be huge, the exposure that, that my patients are going to have, it was just this whole, I'm singing the wrong message. Weiss can't do the pitch to the NHS.

This has [00:24:00] to be a doctor. This has to be a different individual that comes in. So I stay back, call me as and when you need me. But I'm just watching on the side here, seeing NHS people talk to NHS people. 

And I think had it not been for our advisory board members, because part of our pitch was the credibility, and I think having the board that we did as part of our pitch to win a tender and say, oh, by the way we do all this stuff.

Yes, we're regulated. Yes, we're outstanding, et cetera. On top of all that, to, to ensure that we stay true, we have an advisory board and that is chaired by the previous chair of NHS. So, you know, we're kosher here. We know it's not. You know, we're a brand that can be trusted and everything and all the other bodies and they recognize these individuals and they Say, oh ed smith is part of this.

Oh nicolas part of it. Oh michael from mike for mark far as part of it I think it it definitely fueled the growth and it gave us I don't want to call it a pure greenfield opportunity But others were playing catch up while we were focusing on closing deals and I think [00:25:00] If, if that hadn't happened, we would have been competitive with Babylon and Livy and other people in the space.

And it would have been harder to close contracts.

Oliver Cummings: Love that. So tell me more then about the interaction between the advisory board and the main board and how you navigated that. 

Wais Shaifta: The two chairs were brilliant. So you had Suzanne from the main board, then you had Ed Smith. The two of them got along really, really well. We bought Ed in to our main board meetings. And he would be involved in those on a monthly basis. And as part of the monthly catch ups, would make it optional for the main board members to be part of those meets 

from being honest they didn't show up as much to chair always did show up and then would have a quarterly dinner where. Board members and advisory board members would get together. We made that somewhat compulsory. 

So it really pushed on that. And we'd also have an update in the board meetings. So within the board meetings in itself, I would give an update on the advisory board, what they've done for us, how they supported singing their good notes on it.

And [00:26:00] similarly with the advisory board members meetings, I would then talk about business performance to the wider group outside of the chair. So everybody was aware of what we were doing. A lot of it was communication, but it helped a lot because people just got along. 

Oliver Cummings: Really interesting. Now you subsequently joined the board of reach, which I think at the time was also in quite a challenging position operating profits.

I think we're down sort of 25 percent plus. And I had to it was in a position where they were having to cut costs which I think resulted in 200. And, and I think you had a similar position with the gym group where you were in a position where you had to cut operating costs. So you've navigated some pretty challenging times as both a CEO and non exec. What have you learned from those experiences that others potentially facing those in the future might benefit from? 

Wais Shaifta: The key thing for me was with the CEO and with the executive team on how can I play my role here? Like [00:27:00] what exactly can we do at the same time? Being a better board member is wait, before we cut these heads, let's look at a marketing platform you use. Hey, if you're using HubSpot and that's costing us 2 million per annum, how do we make that 100, 000? How do we get. People to stay.

So really working with 'em and say, look let's just go through all that and, you know, using my network, using my knowledge of actually you could potentially use this platform, you can use this tool. Typically, you know, if you increase in revenue, you get to save people. Okay, well maybe we talk about partnerships here, let's do that.

At push doctor, When I became the ceo of the organization, it was a very challenging time actually because I walked into a tech company which had four people within product and 30 marketeers. And that was completely backwards for me. And I said as coming in as a ceo, we want to pivot the business.

We want to pivot the business With the NHS, it's going to require tech resource, tech support, new product, new app, etc. It's going to be a tech first product. And [00:28:00] I essentially had to flip the marketing resource for tech resource. But there was over 30 or so marketeers. And then throughout the whole organization we had, we over indexed in operations too. A lot of it was manual. 

 And I spoke to my board about it and they were like, look, why sweet we totally understand and 100% agree with you. What do you want us to do? And I said, well, bear in mind, I've just come through the door one or two months ago. I'm going to need some support from you folks and I said, well, what way can we support? And I said, well, when I give the announcement to the company, I would like to do a Q and a session a couple of days later.

And I would like all of you present in my mindset as a company, if we are changing direction, if we are going on a new plan, we're all super excited in this plan and we've all signed off it as board members. For me, it gives credibility one for us all to go there as a collective team.

Secondly, you know, people can ask us directly the questions. And nobody's hiding. I'll come in and say, look, this is my view on it. You as board members can [00:29:00] talk about why you signed off on it, and why you're excited about it, based on what you're seeing in the market. And I just thought at the time that was the right thing to do.

Thankfully it did work out. But I think these scenarios are just so hyper sensitive. And I think just really appreciating that and then using your skillset and how you can avoid those situations is key, but sometimes when it's there. You just can't have fuel to the fire

Oliver Cummings: in my experience, that emotional impact is six months. Have you built an organization with high psychological safety and you have to make cuts to it? I think it, in the, whenever I've looked at our data, it takes sort of six months to recover from that emotionally, before you get back to a level. 

I also really like, you talk there about opening yourselves up and the board up for the Q and a, because I remember the first time. I was involved in a cost cutting, we didn't do that and I quickly realized that was a mistake and the next time it happened, we did do it.

It's difficult, but it allows the grieving process to start. And it [00:30:00] just shows that you understand, and I think it allows people then to buy into that next leg of the journey where you're asking them to go again and to follow you through thick and thin again. Whereas, I think if you don't do that, it feels like you and the board are hiding from those difficult pieces And it creates that divide.

Wais Shaifta: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Oliver Cummings: So I want to talk a little bit about your Role specifically now as a ned alongside your work as a ceo.

For me, there was a really instructive moment when I came across this article. It was an HBR piece on how CEOs allocate their time. And a big piece of research looking at the highest performing CEOs and basically dividing up on a percentage basis between the different areas.

And I mapped my calendar onto this and realized that actually I was under indexing in certain areas. One of which was strategy. I was spending probably at the time about 5 percent of my time on strategy and the highest performing CEOs are typically spending 20 percent of their time on strategy. And so [00:31:00] since then I blocked out one day a week where my calendar is clear and all I'm focused on is strategy, 

whether that's designing it, communicating it, whatever else it might be, and constantly wrestling with withholding that space there. But how do you? It sounds like you've been very thoughtful about how you think about your time allocation. How do you think about it for yourself and, and how do you help the CEOs that you now, boards you now sit on with that?

Wais Shaifta: Absolutely. And to add to all of the mayhem, I also have a lovely wife and four kids. So there's a lot going on in my household. I think to your point. It's just understanding what makes a great CEO. The CEO shouldn't be functioning day to day operationally in a sense of doing all the granular stuff, right?

That's what the team are there for. That's what you hire for. And again, I think I've made those mistakes where I've overindexed in meetings that I shouldn't have been involved in project work that I shouldn't have been involved in, et cetera. And I think when you focus, so particularly now, when you just focus on actually the role of the CEO is.

inward towards team, but also external facing. So, [00:32:00] okay, let's, let's work on how the strategy works. Let's talk about a strategy. Now let's talk about how we're going to implement that and everything that goes around that. Once that's done, we've got to sing and dance about it, tell everybody external facing, grab some funding, whatever it may be.

And the CEO for me is that, and I think where I spend most of my time is strategy execution and with my team and those are kind of my two core components and say, okay, well, we've all signed off on a strategy We've signed off on what we're going to do now How are we going to implement that and I know by giving the right investment to you cmo cpo cto cfo, etc And kind of said, okay These are my two really, really key pillars.

And a third part, which is CEO for me is supposed to do is start, you know, continuously staying ahead of the game. So when I think about, I mean, in private dockets is the health tech world. Health tech is changing at a remarkable pace. Consumer trends are changing continuously. And me being out there, you know, whether it be [00:33:00] at networking events, whether it's meeting people relevant in the space, whether it be in NHS, private health care insurers, etc.

And I think where I personally made this mistake is I've said, look, I need to be in every single meeting. Every single level, every manager, me and every director, me, and I need to be present. I need to be here. And actually, what I really need to build is I need to build an organization which has great leadership and can self function.

I need to really stay ahead of game. I need to be external facing. I need to do our PR. I need to do our strategy. I need to meet with external stakeholders. I then got to get our board excited. I've got to then get other individuals excited. I've got my own kind of stakeholder management and relaying that to the team too, because there is also particularly, I think.

I would say with early stage businesses, but actually I see this around all businesses, there is an expectation of the CEO being extremely present in everything. And I think if you also structure a Okay, you've got your direct team, but then you have monthly company meetings. You have monthly weekly roundup Friday.

Hey, look, this is what we did round up with the team and make yourself [00:34:00] present in that way. I think that's more important than probably what I fell for, which was present meant I had to be in, in, everything. So I think for me right now is. I feel as though I'm in a better place with time management. 

Oliver Cummings: Really interesting. Yeah. I think there's someone I was talking to the other day, a very similar view where they said that the role of the CEO is to set strategy, hire and retain talent, and to make sure you've got the resources available to deliver on the strategy. The last question I've got for you is, you know, you've obviously got, you know, an amazing set of options ahead of you.

And there are lots of different things that you could turn your talents to Why do you do these listed company board roles? 

Wais Shaifta: For me being that sponge. I think the learning that I've received in the PLC environment has been quite transformational in how I approach work, and I think there is a bit of a stereotype. With publicly listed companies, I mean, maybe I've been fortunate, but there is a bit of a stereotype sort of all in [00:35:00] governance.

It's all slow. You can't get things over the line. Oh, my God. You know, by the time you have an idea, it takes two years to release. And by then it's out of date. And I actually think that's moving quite fast. I mean, the exciting thing for me, particularly in PLC world is I think they've really realized, and we've seen it with the high street retailers and so on, that they realized.

Unless I diversify, I think there was a clear gap before PLC and where the market was moving. And I think products such as just the Uber and all those fast tech companies have really changed the expectation of a consumer to such a level that I think. You know, we're seeing it on the high shoots and we've seen it elsewhere.

And I think what the PLCs are trying to do very quickly is they're trying to say, how do we get that talent? How do we get that knowledge and really speed it up because it is a different skillset. But the customer is the same. The customer that goes to Marks and Spencer's is the same customer, which is ordering on Just Eat.

Actually Just Eat is probably PLC now, but there's a company that's ordering on private doc it's the same customer, which is doing all these things, but the [00:36:00] one thing that has changed now is The expectation that they have on a premium journey. Is expected across all the different avenues.

What I'm seeing in particular PLC spaces, they are going to a lot more open on these types of profiles. I'm really keen on getting that knowledge in to help them move faster. And I think for me being a sponge in wanting to get better at my approach to work.

Having worked in businesses, VC backed, PE backed PLCs, it just gives me a full on rounded approach. Now, if I think about optionality of private doc as an example, we're growing and we're growing extremely fast right now we have numerous opportunities. Do we raise debt? Do we raise VC capital? Do we get acquired?

Do we list a business in three, four years, all those options for me. Are available for the business, but I personally am comfortable in all of those because I've lived in and experienced it 

Oliver Cummings: what a great response. Weiss, the time has flown by, which means it's time for wrap up with the lightning round, where I'm going to say a short statement and ask you for a quick response if you're [00:37:00] ready. 

Wais Shaifta: I'll try it.

Oliver Cummings: So first up, the boardroom behavior that irritates you most? 

Wais Shaifta: People talking for the sake of talking.

Oliver Cummings: The best book every board member should read and why 

Wais Shaifta: I'm going to probably show my age here. I don't read books. I'm, I'm more of a podcast guy and I love to be around people. I used to work, I'm name dropping here. I used to work with Rio Ferdinand on, on the road at the gym group. He's got a great podcast five live. I really enjoyed that. 

Oliver Cummings: Favorite quote and why, 

Wais Shaifta: Show up. There are many things in life you can't control, but you can control the effort you put in.

Oliver Cummings: Great one your most significant professional insight. 

Wais Shaifta: It's not a one person show. It's all about team. It's all about how you empower teams. 

Oliver Cummings: The worst professional advice you've ever received? 

Wais Shaifta: There's quite a few there. I think the worst was, was around how to fundraise. Because fundraising is one of those things where everybody has a different approach to it. And then you get, hey, get a story which people can relate to, [00:38:00] bring something of your history and your past and bring that into the story.

And then you get others which are just concrete numbers, metrics, et cetera. And I've, I've had a few on sometimes dramatizing things in my life to try and give a good, good pitch deck. And that was probably the worst advice because you saw it be a bit unnatural and then essentially you saw my pitches go down like a lead balloon.

Oliver Cummings: Love it. And last but not least, three things someone listening to this should take away if they take nothing else from listening to you. 

Wais Shaifta: Oh gosh. Time, time is important. Managing your time is very important. And I think if people start their week this is how I'm going to manage my time and stick to it 90, 95 percent of the time.

That will go a very long way with professional and personal life outside of my kind of kids and all I mean, by the way I'm not the book to time management.

In terms of boards, I would just advise not being a show up once a month board [00:39:00] member I think you know if you are going to be a board member really be active really try and show how You can add value. 

And then for me, probably the last one was is. For first non execs is, is choose the first one wisely. I was very fortunate in the first one being the gym group. At the time it had a chair, which was a lady called Penny Hughes, absolutely brilliant chair. The founder was still there, who's a chair now, John, John Trem, absolutely brilliant guy.

And I think if I had been with another non exec company, sorry, another company for my first non exec role, I don't think I would have continued in non exec world because I wouldn't have been exposed to everything that came with it. 

Oliver Cummings: Well, it has been an absolute pleasure I can see why many boards want you on them. So much for taking the time to share your insights with us.

Wais Shaifta: Brilliant. Thank you all. Thank you for taking the time.

Oliver Cummings: And thanks to all of you listening. We've been blown away by the incredible feedback about [00:40:00] how this podcast has been helping you get board roles and become better board members. This podcast is for you, so if you'd like to suggest guests, topics, difficult challenges, or you'd like to share stories about how the podcast has impacted you, or have suggestions on how we can improve, please email Podcast at new role.

com that's podcast at new role. com and let me know. I'd love to hear from you otherwise. Thanks again for listening and look forward to having you back here for the next discussion.

🎙️ You can listen to the full podcast interview with Wais on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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