For many business leaders, retirement is a daunting prospect. After spending so many years working flat out to keep – or indeed make – a business successful, stereotypical retirement pastimes like golf or sailing for days on end may not hold much appeal.
It’s certainly the case for our Vistage Chairs: individuals who have made the decision to scale back their workload, work as a non-executive director or retire completely, but can’t imagine a life without work in some capacity. They didn’t simply choose to be a Vistage Chair to alleviate boredom (although we’re sure it helps!) With new challenges, continued personal development and an opportunity to give back all having a role to play, here are some of the reasons why current Vistage Chairs chose to take on the position.
To develop new skill sets
Vistage Chair Harry Marsland – whose long career in advertising and marketing includes stints at agencies like McCann Erickson as well as running his own agency – has relished the change in mindset that the role has required.
In a recent interview, he revealed that he’s enjoying the challenge of no longer being the one with all the answers. Throughout his marketing and advertising career, clients would come to him with problems or obstacles, and his role was to provide the solution – and deliver it. Now, though, the solutions aren’t just down to him. “When you’re a Chair,” he says, “it helps to have some bright ideas and some ways to take conversations, but you’re more of a facilitator. It’s a different skill set and it’s one that I’m still learning”.
To get excited about something
For some CEOs on the verge of retirement, the thought of a slower pace of life is something to look forward to. For others, it can fill them with dread.
The results of a 2019 survey conducted by the National Citizen Service reveals that Brits tire of retirement after just a year – so it’s vital to find something that motivates and stimulates.
For Harry, the Vistage Chair role means that boredom is unlikely to kick in. He’s always excited about both the meetings and the one-to-ones - to the extent that he doesn’t generally sleep the night before a Vistage group. “It sounds silly but I’m almost like a kid before Christmas,'' he says. “It’s not quite like throwing a party, but when you’ve got a dozen or so really great people coming together, you do have a lot of fun – and you really stretch each other.”
To have the feeling of doing something important
The people we take on as Chairs are former chief execs and MDs who have been incredibly successful in their working lives. They’re business people who have been respected in their industry and in their communities. With that role comes recognition and prestige – two things that can be incredibly mentally rewarding, and can push individuals to keep performing better and better.
In retirement, that recognition and prestige can be hard to replicate. As a Vistage Chair that sense of achievement can be maintained, with a positive effect on mental health.
To be part of a community
Everyone in the corporate world or who has set up their own business will be used to having people around at all times, whether these people are partners, employees or clients. And many of our Chairs tell us that a fear of losing this link to people played a big role in their decision to take the position.
As a Chair, you’ll be part of a community of around 100 other leaders in the UK, where you’ll benefit not just from the social elements, but also from learning from one another. Which brings us on to our next point...
To keep learning
Keeping your mind as active as it was during your working life can be a challenge in retirement. But it’s part and parcel of the Vistage Chair role, which held a great deal of appeal for Chair Charles Llewellyn.
After 16 years of service in the Royal Navy, 12 with a US bank and stints in both Bahrain and Oman, he retired in 1995. That’s when he became a Vistage Chair – and he’s still going strong today.
For him, self-development is an integral part of the role. “I have a very enquiring mind myself,'' he says, “and if I don’t keep ahead and keep up to date, then I’m not going to do a very good job as a Chair. It’s not a chore at all.”
Chair Jan Lloyd has a very different background. Her languages degree led to a sales and marketing career, followed by a management role in the dairy industry, then a position managing the regeneration of a 34-acre Vauxhall fruit and veg market. But, like Charles, her passion for learning was a large part of her decision to step into the Chair role.
“It became obvious that working with people, finding out new things, and seeing people develop and facilitating that development was what floated my boat,'' she says. “At this stage of my career, retirement isn’t that far away, and I saw this as being something that would keep me interested and involved, and still developing and growing, in a way that nothing else I could see could give me”.
Vistage Chairs are smart people – people who will generally have a fear of becoming stale and stagnating in retirement. The Chair role offers them the chance to upskill and face new challenges – but to do all this on their own terms.
To help others
A large part of the Vistage Chair role is about helping others: challenging, inspiring and leading a group of business leaders to reach their full potential.
For Charles Llewellyn, this desire to help others is a must-have for those considering a Chair role. Of Vistage Chairs, he says, “They care about their members. The reality is, and I think all Chairs would say this, is to say that seeing members achieve their objectives, be successful, have a balanced life, is a reward in itself”.
And Jan Lloyd agrees. While there’s no denying that there are personal benefits to becoming a Vistage Chair, that altruistic spirit will always shine through. She says, “For me, the people who make a good Chair are generous of spirit and are prepared to put the effort in for the benefit of the people in their group, and it’s about the group and not them”.
To earn money from varied work
As mentally rewarding as the Vistage Chair role is, we’re not expecting you to do something for nothing. For many of our Chairs, money is not the primary driver, but it is still important.
Our chair development director Ian Lloyd notes that the role can keep people in as comfortable a lifestyle as consultancy for successful Chairs, and is more secure in the long-term. Average Vistage members tend to be part of a group for 2-3 years, which can provide chairs with both flexibility and a very healthy six-figure income: greater security than for a consultant on a string of two-month assignments.
With that lengthy relationship comes diversity, too. “I would argue there’s nothing more varied and exciting than what Vistage can offer you”, says Ian. “You could be working with 15 different businesses, all different industry sectors, all high growth, every month.
“That’s pretty exciting compared to a consultant who might just focus on cost optimisation and works solely with engineering companies. The variety and excitement, coupled with a consistent income that grows as your Chair practice grows, appeals to a lot of people.”
Retirement doesn’t have to be boring: a Vistage Chair role can ensure that you continue to put what you’ve learned during your management career into practice, keeping your mind active, developing new skills and facilitating continued learning. But that’s not all. By becoming a Vistage Chair, you’ll know that you’re helping to hone the business minds of the future: contributing to the next generation of SMEs and seeing members of your group flourish and grow. And that’s a huge reward in itself.
Want to see what honing the business minds of the future looks like? Click here to learn more about becoming a Vistage Chair.