We caught up with Richard, Athene’s Managing Director and owner of 17 years, as he transitions from Managing Director to Chairman this August.
Looking back, what have been some of your highlights and most memorable moments of being Managing Director at Athene?
It is hard to single out just one highlight, there have been many. For me, it is those moments of reflection that stand out. For instance, I remember, after setting up Athene Communications in 2003, we closed the office for our first Christmas, and I thought ‘we have an office!’
Over the years, our anniversary celebrations have been some of my fondest memories. From 5 years to ten years, to fifteen years, it has been fantastic to see the company grow, employing and supporting more people, working with an increasing variety of clients and ultimately giving back to our community.
To mark our fifteenth year, we held a special awards evening and over a hundred people came to celebrate with us, showing how much goodwill there is towards our company and how highly respected and valued Athene is, both in Peterborough and more widely.
I believe companies exist to enhance society, so another great moment was when we won the Peterborough Telegraph’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award in 2019 and the presenter said, ‘who else but Athene’ – to me, that says it all.
What is one thing you have learnt or taken away from your experience as a business owner?
To always be positive and find opportunities in every situation! It is all about investing in your people, motivating them and giving them the chance to thrive. For this to happen, you need to guide and allow your employees to have the opportunity to come up with ideas, turn those into projects and take their own decisions.
Being adaptable is also very important. The world is constantly changing, and we have to evolve and keep pace. When we launched Athene in 2003, print press was the main form of external communications; Facebook did not exist. Now social media is a key way to reach audiences and it is one of our key areas of expertise . This means your values have to stand the test of time and at Athene, our mission has stayed the same, it is only the vehicles we use to achieve it that have changed.
As the business has grown successfully over the last seventeen years, can you talk us through the journey to becoming Chairman?
When I reached 50, I decided I wanted to be in a position in five years’ time where both the company and I had options on what to do next. We made the deliberate decision to begin this process and it has been a pleasure to see the company evolve during this time.
The management team has gone from strength to strength, participating in training courses, increasing their skillset and confidence and taking on the daily management of the company. Rachel Wild, who is now our Managing Director, is very well placed to take on the role and I have every confidence that she will do amazing things for the company.
This means I can move into a more strategic role as Chairman. It is not a move away from the company, simply a change in position that allows me to continue to support and advise Rachel and the team, help grow and develop the business. I will also continue to support several key clients that I have been working with over the years.
I am also looking forward to having more time to put into my voluntary roles, attend events and learn new things as well as hopefully the new balance it will bring to my life.
Can you share with us some more information about the other work you are involved in?
I have always been passionate about the environment and believe companies have a responsibility to protect our environment and give back to the community. Therefore, I am part of several organisations that are working to bring about change.
I am the Chairman of the local nature partnership, Natural Cambridgeshire, and am leading on a campaign to double nature in the county. I am also the Chairman of Langdyke Countryside Trust and we are working to establish a nature recovery area on the edge of Peterborough. I have also been invited to join the Independent Climate Change committee for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.
Through these roles, I hope to make a real difference. After all, if we do not protect our environment, there will not be an Athene! I also plan to bring my learning back to the company and in turn, continue to share Athene’s brand and services to those I meet.
What are your hopes for the business for the next five years and your personal ambitions?
I love seeing Athene grow – not necessarily in size, but seeing it mature and evolve as a business. I look forward to seeing it continue to be sustainable and profitable and most of all, see its people progress and taken on new responsibilities.
The future is bright for Athene and in the next couple of years it would be particularly exciting to see our Education PR client base increase. We have a pretty unique offer and already support over 100 schools across England, but there’s no reason that couldn’t be 200!
I also hope we stay true to our values and continue to be highly respected in the community, actively taking part in local matters, whether that’s by offering support, raising money or giving our time to be governors, trustees and volunteers.
You can read more news and interviews with the Athene team here.