Taking a risk to change direction

Matt Roberts is CEO of In Touch Networks, a Manchester firm recently named as the fastest growing technology company in the North West by Deloitte. But back in 2013 Roberts was running his own successful marketing consultancy. Things were going well. “I was really enjoying it,” Roberts says, “but had been questioning whether it was enough of a challenge. It was successful, but a lifestyle business.” 

In Touch Networks was founded by executive head-hunter Ian Wright back in 2013. Wright found himself regularly approached by companies who needed a non-executive director but never wanted to pay a recruitment fee.

“Ian thought, ‘What I’ll do is put together a list of candidates who want to be non-execs and if anyone ever asks for one I’ll just introduce them,’” Roberts explains. “It complemented his existing business. He then bought the domain name NonExecutiveDirectors.com and started charging candidates to be part of his list.”

Roberts went for an interview with Wright. It lasted two hours, after which Wright told Roberts he didn’t have the job. Instead he asked him to work with him directly on building the business. 

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Despite having a mortgage and young baby and the prospect of a considerable cut in income, Roberts gave up his other clients and more or less immediately bought into the company.

Read more: Turning point tales

He says: “Ian explained the business and that was the turning point for me, I just thought, ‘Wow. There’s so much I can do with this.’ It’s not just non executives, there are a million different sectors you can apply this model to.” Roberts grew the company quickly, becoming CEO, increasing membership radically and ramping up turnover to £6 million.

Conventional wisdom might dictate that you spend a long time looking at a business, working out the whys and wherefores and considering the ramifications of leaving one business and jumping in head first to another but, Roberts says, when you know you know.

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“I could say that I spent a long time mulling over the career move, but that wasn’t the case. I knew straight away that this could be massive and I immediately wanted to be a part of it,” he says.

As well as dominating the UK market, the company, which now employs 35 people in total, has expanded its presence with a USA office. It is also diversifying into a number of other areas with other websites with one common goal; bringing together various groups of the world's most powerful CEOs, CFOs and non-exec directors in a series of online business communities, with the aim of providing a platform to build a profile and showcase services and products in front of senior decision makers.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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