“Are you an entrepreneur or an accountant?”
This was the line that Neal used to bring me on board and to help co-found The Panoply. He is clever like that!
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur but, slightly unsure of my path after university, I was convinced to train as an accountant. For over a decade after university, I had ideas and innovations running around my head but for years I had struggled to take action. It was my Dad who encouraged me to do so.
During a conversation where I suggested I was a bit lost, he encouraged me to “go and polish the church pews”. What he was trying to say is that if there is nothing happening then you need to get out there and change it. For me this is a metaphor for taking action. Within three years of this advice, I had helped set up three businesses and had written a children’s book.
Taking on the Atlantic Ocean
I am thankful to my Dad for his guidance and also feeling incredibly proud as he attempts, with his friend, to become the oldest pair ever to row a major ocean. More people have climbed Everest than rowed across the Atlantic, so when he called me to tell me that he was going to take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, aged 68, I nearly fell off my chair.
Every year about 40 boats (surprisingly small and open boats with low sides) set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to row over 3,000 miles to Antigua in the Caribbean. Boats are crewed with anywhere from one to five rowers and apparently within a day of setting off the 40 boats are so spread out that you won’t see any of the other boats again until you reach Antigua (anywhere between 40-60 days later).
If the 50ft waves, physical exertion, blisters, lack of sleep, boil-in-the-bag food and monotony aren’t enough to deal with, then you have the wildlife. In the last race, 3 of the boats were attacked by Marlin and one competitor woke up with a 30cm marlin “spike” between his legs after it pierced the hull. In another race, a crew lost an oar fending off a shark. So, yes, I did nearly fall off my chair.
Finding the next challenge
So why is he doing it!? Partial to a glass of wine and a chocolate biscuit you would definitely not put my Dad in the category of superhero athlete. But he is never one to sit still. As he slowly wound down towards retirement after spending his career working with and advising entrepreneurs, he was looking for the next challenge so he went and polished the church pews!
I think much like most bold and ambitious projects if he knew what he knew now and the amount of effort to get to the start line let alone the finish line he would never have started. But once you start telling enough people what you are planning to do there is no backing out! That and the ambition to raise £1m to support social entrepreneurs.
My dad is passionate about entrepreneurship. Innovation, disrupting the status quo, creating jobs and wealth are the lifeblood of the world economy and he has spent his life advising entrepreneurs to turn their visions into realities. But more recently he has seen the impact that business can have to solve wider societal problems and the premise of combining profit with purpose.
That is why he decided to use his row to raise money for a charity called UnLtd. UnLtd finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs – people with vision, drive and passion who develop solutions that change the world for the better. Along with their supporters, they help these entrepreneurs turn their expertise, talent and ideas into thriving businesses that address a range of critical social issues, benefiting communities and the wider economy.
It’s the same spirit in which The Panoply was founded, creating a publicly listed digital transformation company that could mix profit and purpose in equal measure, building the company around core values including entrepreneurialism and creativity.
A new kind of entrepreneurship
Dad has raised £400,000 to date including donations from Neal and by that I mean the boat, called The Entrepreneur Ship (get it?!), which will carry The Panoply’s new company logo and branding on its journey across the Atlantic. Dad was super keen to have The Panoply name on the boat having been the one that first introduced Neal and me back in 2016.
To say I am incredibly proud would be an understatement. I am so excited about the journey ahead of him and in particular flying out to Antigua to welcome him in! You can follow him, support him or sponsor him here.
So what is entrepreneurship? It turns out it is a boat! And am I an entrepreneur or an accountant? You can tell me when we next meet!