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King of the swingers: Go Ape’s Tristram Mayhew says the National Business Awards transformed his company, after achieving steering the business to success, Mr Mayhew had to learn how to delegate for further growth.

King of the swingers: Go Ape’s Tristram Mayhew says the National Business Awards transformed his company. After steering the business to success, Mr Mayhew had to learn how to delegate for further growth.

National Business Awards: know your leadership style

Tristram Mayhew, the founder of award-winning outdoor adventure operator Go Ape, talks about the benefits of the National Business Awards.

The National Business Awards is partnering with Cranfield School of Management for 2013 to offer a variety of accolades for businesses and leaders across categories including Leader of the Year, Leadership Diversity Award and the Smith & Williamson Entrepreneur of the Year.

Cranfield, which is calling for business leaders to think more strategically, has identified four types of leadership style.

There’s the Meddler: in other words, one who persists in getting involved with the day-to-day management of the business, and in doing so stifles its capacity to grow and prevents staff from taking responsibility. At the same time, there’s no room for planning.

The owner-manager Hero usually heads up a management function such as sales or production and is invariably the only person who really understands a company’s management politics.

Then there’s the Artisan, who spends most of his or her time producing a product or delivering a service – such as architecture or surveying – but has low management skills and is keen to be regarded as “one of the gang”, leaving them with little authority or time for future planning.

Professor Andrew Burke, of Cranfield, explains: “Although these styles – particularly the Hero and the Artisan – might be effective in driving a business in the early stages of its development, it’s important to know when to move on.”

Time, then, to become a Strategist. Strategists give their managers the tools to do the job, while they plan for the future by developing the overarching business strategy.

The importance of understanding leadership styles has emerged from Cranfield’s experience in coaching more than 1,500 UK businesses that have taken part in its Business Growth & Development Programme (BGP). The programme focuses on owner-managers who feel that their businesses have potential for further growth, helping them to achieve this ambition and encouraging the evolution of leadership style from mainly “working in the business” to “working on the business”.

Prof Burke’s advocacy of the strategic approach is part of the reasoning behind his enthusiasm for the National Business Awards. “Entrants are forced to stand back from the day-to-day running of their businesses and disengage from that temporarily to get a good strategic perspective,” he says. “It dovetails very nicely with what we are getting people to do on the Business Growth & Development Programme.”

The National Business Awards are now in their 12th year and are regarded as the UK’s most prestigious cross-industry accolade for excellence in enterprise. Open to any company within the UK, regardless of size or industry, the awards focus on every major aspect of business life.

Supported by the Government, and partners including the Telegraph, the judging panel features senior industry figures.

Ask any previous entrant about the awards and they will agree that the process – win or lose – is a productive one. Tristram Mayhew, founder of outdoor adventure operator Go Ape, is both a former National Business Awards winner and a BGP participant.

Four years ago, Go Ape entered the National Business Awards and was named Santander Small to Medium-Sized Business of the Year. So what were the benefits of the competition for a successful young business with growth on its mind? Apart from being forced to take a good, long look at the strategic direction of his company, Mr Mayhew says there were other substantial benefits.

“You make a lot of contacts – often with people you have looked up to for so long – and you find you suddenly have personal connections with them. It is a real door-opener in that respect.

“It also gave the people who work for us an enormous amount of pride in knowing that they are working for an award-winning business. It is not all about money, it is also heavily focused on corporate social responsibility and other core values. I would highly recommend the process to other businesses.”

He was equally impressed with the results of the BGP. So much so that he later enrolled two more of his senior managers. “My operations director and I went on the programme in 2006,” he says. At that time the business had seven Go Ape courses and a turnover of around £1.5m.

“Being the Hero might sound glamorous, whereby all decisions come through you. But in fact it is a complete limiter to growth because you can’t multiply yourself and it disenfranchises those who work for you. What I had to do was to learn to delegate. It was also important to pass this on as a culture to new managers.”

Mr Mayhew draws a comparison between a business and a rowing team. “What Cranfield taught me is that, even if you are the most powerful rower, that is not the most effective position to be in, always facing backwards. What you need is to move from the stroke seat to the cox, so you are the one person looking forward.

“By 2010 we’d completed our three-year plan and I thought it was time to refresh our thinking. So my brother, who had joined the business as managing director, and my wife, who was a co-founder, went on the programme.”

This year, Go Ape will turn over £12.5m in the UK and has expanded successfully into the US. “We have already got four courses operating in the States and there are another two due to open this summer. Going forward, we aim to open five centres a year there.”

Alex Evans, programme director of National Business Awards, commented: “Leadership is one of the seven key criteria used to evaluate all of our entrants for the National Business Awards.

“While judges focus on the strategic vision of the CEO and the effectiveness of management they also look at how future leaders are being developed.”

For more information on the awards, go to

© 2013 The Telegraph | This article first appeared in The Telegraph on 6 June 2013.