Andy Bird

Posted 05 Mar 2018 | Stories | Pilotlighter Profiles

Andy is working on his first Pilotlight project. His career background includes 15 years as a marketer with Unilever and a further 15 co-running his own consultancy business, Brand Learning. Andy is now an independent leadership coach and recently published a book called The Inspired Leader.

What is your greatest professional achievement? 

I guess it would have to be selling my consultancy firm, Brand Learning, to Accenture last year. I co-founded the company in 2000 and, together with my partner and our wonderful team of colleagues, we have worked hard to build it into a global business in the years since. The acquisition has opened up some extremely exciting new opportunities for Brand Learning’s clients, its people and the business itself.

What does success mean to you?

I believe that success involves making the most of your potential as a person and, by doing so, having the biggest possible positive impact on the people and the world around you. Achieving things for oneself can be satisfying up to a point, but I’ve found that a true sense of fulfilment only comes when you do it for, and with, other people.

Who’s most influenced you in your career and why?

I am deeply grateful to my business partner, Mhairi McEwan, for all the support and inspiration she has given me over the years. I must also mention a leadership coach called Steve Radcliffe, who not only taught me most of what I know about leadership but also inspired me to become a leadership coach myself in recent years.

Why did you become a Pilotlighter? 

For many years I have been lucky enough to work with commercial leaders in big private sector organisations, providing marketing consultancy and coaching support. I’m very conscious that the leaders of charities face very similar challenges, but have much less resource and support to call upon. I have great respect for these people and my hope is that I can share some of my experience in ways which will help them flourish and succeed.

Tell us one thing you’ve learnt through working with us. 

I have learnt a lot about the governance and financing of charities. These areas are new to me and I have started to appreciate more fully some of the critical challenges and success factors involved.

What’s been your biggest challenge? 

Having previously worked as a consultant and coach, I’ve found the light-touch involvement we have as Pilotlighters quite difficult to get used to. Part of me would like to get more involved in helping to sort out the strategic issues and in providing more in-depth personal support to the leadership team. But I recognise the different kind of value we bring by playing a more non-executive role, and I am adapting my mindset and style of working accordingly.

What’s been your biggest surprise? 

It's not exactly a surprise, but I’ve been very impressed by the quality of the people who are Pilotlighters on my team. Each brings a different blend of functional and sector experience and we all add value in different ways. I think I’m learning as much from my fellow Pilotlighters as the charity we’re working with is!

Has working with charities inspired you in anyway? 

The most inspiring thing for me has been the positive and generous spirit of the people we have met at the charity. This is certainly true of the CEO herself, but also the leadership team members she has brought to some of the meetings. One of the high points was visiting the charity’s site in Blackburn and meeting many of the wonderful staff involved in day-to-day service delivery.

Has being a Pilotlighter influenced you in any other area of your life? 

I really appreciate the feeling of balance that has come from having Pilotlight as part of my portfolio of activities. Having the opportunity to give something back has also helped broaden my perspective on life, opening my eyes to the challenges faced by people in parts of society I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered.

Describe the Pilotlight Effect. 

I have yet to complete a project, so it’s early days to describe the ultimate effect. However, my sense is that our involvement helps charities look at their strategic challenges in new, refreshing ways. We also act as a catalyst that helps trigger important relationship-building conversations between people that otherwise wouldn’t take place.

What one question would you ask the next Pilotlighter who does a profile? 

What have you learnt about yourself through working with Pilotlight?