Ask the expert – our conversation with Peter Neal

'If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.' Marcus Aurelius (Stoic Philosopher)

Our passion is to partner and collaborate with like-minded folk who have a purpose beyond purely ‘making money’. We want to support a more ‘conscious’ model of capitalism where entrepreneurs and business leaders share a growth mindset, have a true sense of purpose and are passionate about growing their businesses and achieving their vision; whilst harnessing the best out of their people to deliver performance and profits.

This is why we have decided to ‘Ask the expert’ and showcase some of our business partners; exploring what makes them tick and more importantly finding out more about their views on working in partnership and sharing their tips for how to make it work.

This month, we chatted to Peter Neal, Founder of The Experience Bank Group – a North East-based organisation helping SMEs and charities build and maintain brilliant boards. The Group has four key areas; Board Level Recruitment, High Performance Boards, a Peer Group Programme for non-exec directors, and a fantastic social enterprise, The Experience Bank.

Through our conversation, this is what we found out…


Tell us more about The Experience Bank Group…

I’ve worked in recruitment for over 25 years, placing board members and non-exec directors into great businesses. I still do that, as well as help companies create and maintain high-performing boards, but we also run a not-for-profit, The Experience Bank.

What came with my recruitment career is lots of connections and many people I know are at a stage in their career where they want to give back, including me. So, The Experience Bank was formed and everyone that’s involved is there to help early stage entrepreneurs with whatever challenges they may be facing – completely free of charge. The entrepreneurs are introduced to one or two experienced executives who have been through a similar experience of building a business or organisation, so they get incredible insight and solutions. The more established entrepreneurs get a great sense of purpose, by genuinely helping others. That is partnership working at its best.


What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Without a doubt, it’s working with a client to pinpoint what they really need, then finding and facilitating that for them and seeing the success of that within their organisation. I go to bed smiling when I know I have added value to a client through The Experience Bank Group. There is no better feeling than knowing you have helped somebody.


Three tips for a good working relationship with partners:

Always remember, that it needs to be a partnership – it can’t be one-sided, it’s give and take and both people need to be invested. My top three tips would be:

  1. You need to like your partners as people – if you have mutual respect and understanding, the partnership will thrive.
  2. Find the right person to talk to – get as close to the decision-maker as possible. I personally only work with business owners, MDs and CEOs, as bureaucracy is a pet peeve.
  3. Be interested – if you aren’t passionate about your clients or customers’ business then it doesn’t make sense to pursue it.


How can a true partnership strengthen a business?

If both sides have invested a lot of time and effort then there’s no need to keep reinvesting time having to do it all again with someone else. It can’t be a transactional relationship. Once you understand a business inside out, the empathy and compassion that comes with that make it a true partnership that will go the distance. You need to build a lot of trust and have mutual respect and truly want to help one another – the payment side of things is simply a side note.


Who or what inspires you?

Many people inspire me on an everyday basis – it’s difficult to pick one.

In terms of what inspires me, my view and outlook on not just my career but my life completely changed following a personal change in circumstances a few years ago. I quickly realised that chasing the money simply didn’t cut it anymore and I wanted to be genuinely fulfilled in my professional life. I know that if I had carried on in mainstream recruitment, I may be earning more money but I wouldn’t have been as happy. With my current business, I am proud to say that I am truly tranquil, happy, and fulfilled.

When I was going through some personal challenges, I started to search for answers, and I discovered Stoic Philosophy. It offers a practical framework that I find very useful and easy to follow and has certainly helped me through things, and to this day still shapes my thinking and behaviour – especially when it comes to creating long-lasting partnerships.


What are your plans for the future?

What I would like to accomplish and see in the next 10 years is to have those early stage entrepreneurs whom we have helped via The Experience Bank come back to us as established, successful, profitable businesses asking us to find exec and non-exec directors to continue supporting their growth. A truly circular business model. That’s when we will know we have made a difference.