There’s big and exciting changes ahead at Bromford! Here’s a copy of the message I sent out to Colleagues on Tuesday:
A Lover of Learning…and a Lover of Action too.
Three hundred and three score years ago, John Harvard, “a godly gentleman and a lover of learning” and a Stratford Upon Avon boy, left these shires for Boston, America and a year later endowed what became Harvard University, one of the world’s leading research universities. Fast forward to today and I find myself in the curious and exhilarating position of being about to follow in his shoes and make the exact same journey from Stratford to Massachusetts. More of that in a minute or two.
Back to the more recent past and two score and eleven years ago, half a dozen property people came together and resolved – probably in a smoke-filled room somewhere in ’60’s Birmingham, UK – to set up a new way of doing things for people in housing need. Around that time in 1963 I was just a kid really, a rebellious wannabe teenager vaguely conscious, amid a world trying to blow itself up, of people like John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King trying to make it a better place. Half a century later and the world seems just as scary. But that bunch of Brummie do-gooders – they called themselves Bromford by the way after the Bromford racecourse next door to their first scheme – morphed into something quite special and today Bromford has become a major force in UK housing – a beacon of light and hope in a mixed and turbulent world – as part of the ‘third arm’ in housing. For 30 of those 51 years I have been both lucky and privileged to serve Bromford as its Chief Executive. But now, after 30 hugely enjoyable years leading this fantastic organisation, I have decided it is time to move on and hand over the baton to someone else. And to make my own personal homage to John Harvard of Stratford and Boston.
Colleagues who know me will know that this has not been an easy decision to make – I am passionately committed to the organisation and what we stand for, our values or ‘DNA’ if you like, and I think of it as a ‘family’ that I am proud to be part of. I am also deeply proud of the special culture here – the extraordinary ‘ Bromford Way ‘ of doing things built upon an unshakeable belief in the good in people – and I like to think I have helped make a small piece of ‘social housing’ history along the way. The average CEO tenure is now about 5 or 6 years and I have bucked this trend for long enough. One day my luck might run out, health or otherwise, and so it’s time to make way for some one else to lead the organisation, bring in some fresh thinking and make their own mark.
And in that respect I am delighted that the Board has decided to appoint our Executive Director Philippa Jones as the next CEO. As many of you will know, Philippa has worked tirelessly at Bromford for 26 years and has held leadership roles right across the business.
Philippa will take over from me at the beginning of January next year when I will head across the Atlantic from Stratford to commence a sabbatical year at Harvard University. You may have heard my mantra “we are all trainees” and I will be putting this into practice participating in Harvard’s phenomenal Advanced Leadership Initiative http://advancedleadership.harvard.edu .
I am really excited about this opportunity to spread the word about Bromford and in particular to develop a number of ideas behind the “You Can” Foundation.
Also, just as I shared the learning from Harvard Business School in 2002/4, through the launch of our Leadership Academy and the ’60 Nelsons’, I will bring back my learning from this programme to support colleagues in an advisory capacity in the further evolution of the Bromford Deal and our social purpose of Inspiring People to be their Best.
Bromford has never been in better shape – we have just delivered the strongest ever set of results in our 51 years, and have a superb financial and cash position that is the envy of others.
We have weathered the storms and uncertainties of the credit crunch really well and although there are more economic and political challenges ahead, the tough decisions we took five years ago have stood us in great stead and now provide us with great opportunities and choices going forward.
We have a great strategy in place with a clear direction of travel; creating a great place to work, building financial independence from Government and inspiring people to be the best they can be, by doing things for themselves and by putting something back into the world. It’s the best strategy we could possibly have.
As for me, my personal strategy is now to rejoice in the forthcoming ‘once in a lifetime’ Harvard experience, relish the life-affirming events and opportunities of these last 30 years at Bromford and to climb many more mountain passes while my legs permit it. Oh, and to break bread with the best friends across the world that I have yet to meet.
A final thought from me: the biggest thing I think I have done here is to help create a platform on which other people can do their work, give of their best and exceed their wildest expectations. I never wanted Bromford to be like everyone else. I wanted us to #BeGood but to be #BeDifferent and proud of it.
I am proud to have served among you, to have known so many fabulous hard working colleagues, and to have made so many friends who I know will be friends for life. I will say this at the Bash next week, but I’d like to thank everyone now -without you Bromford is nothing.
To paraphrase another American, Abraham Lincoln, in his closing line in the Gettysburg Address : “the world will little note nor long remember what we say or what we think, but it will not forget what we do”.
So seize the day guys and gals, make your lives extraordinary.