Incoming boss seeks to provide ‘therapy for the whole business’ to eliminate organisational obstacles, says White

EXCLUSIVE: Freedom Services Group is refreshing its c-suite leadership, with founder and current chief executive Sam White handing over the reins of the business to corporate psychologist Andrew Tailby, effective from January 2022.

Tailby has been involved with Freedom Services Group for the past two years, acting as a personal coach for White as well as supporting the firm’s wider senior management team. His involvement with the firm came about after he spotted a LinkedIn post by White in 2019, where she discussed autonomy in business.

This follows his decade-long career to date, where he has focused on the “very niche market” of coaching female chief executives.

Trained as a clinical psychotherapist, Tailby specialises in management behaviour and the psychology of organisational development - something White wants to put the spotlight on at Freedom Services Group to really enable the business to grow and flourish.

Tailby’s appointment, therefore, is all about creating “the right dynamic for the business to succeed”, White told Insurance Times.

She explained that Tailby needed “much more control” over the group than his previous coaching remit, as this would enable him to effect the desired business change and growth she envisioned. 

For her, the “traditional corporate management structure” and ethos around coaching “were playing against each other”. White therefore decided to take a step back and assume the responsibilities of a chairperson, giving Tailby the autonomy to further “grow the business”.

She continued: “I’ve wanted to take a bit of a step back for a while now and sit more comfortably in that chair role, which suits me better in terms of the things that I enjoy getting involved in rather than that really hands on, day-to-day management of the business, which doesn’t necessarily fit my entrepreneurial spirit.

“I like finding the new opportunities and getting things started, whereas finessing something that’s already in existence - which is a skill in its own right - is probably less in my wheelhouse.

“I genuinely believe that this is the right dynamic for the business to succeed. The psychology element for me is really critical.”

With this new strategy in mind, White and Tailby are targeting earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) of £4.5m this year, using a mixture of business consolidation and organic growth.

This compares to an ebitda of £1.3m for the year ending 31 December 2020, according to Companies House.

Tailby added that his new position will empower him to “put my money where my mouth is”.

‘Happy people are productive people’

Tailby noted that at Freedom Services Group, there is a “lack of recognition of what team dynamics can bring to an organisation”.

He added: “All entrepreneurs I’ve ever met have a similar psychology and that psychology is challenging when it comes to team growth and development because they tend to be quite self-motivated and self-sufficient. That self-motivation and self-reliance sometimes is counterproductive in a team environment.”

White, who started her own business independently at the age of 24, agreed: “Entrepreneurs have an absolute hero complex of ‘it’s all on me’, ‘I’ll sort it out’ and I’ve definitely fallen foul of that.

“I’ve had lots of therapy over the years as a person because I think it’s really important to understand what your personal obstacles are, but I saw [Tailby’s appointment] as therapy for the whole business – to remove those obstacles as a business”.

Obstacles vary for different organisations, but at Freedom Services Group, one challenge was its broking, underwriting and claims businesses believing they were all part of separate “camps”. Instead, with Tailby’s support, the group is now “thinking in terms of being one entity”, said White.

Part of the process in bringing the group together more strongly was confronting traditional and “quite hierarchical” business structures.

“What you want is a structure where people feel free to challenge,” said White. “They should feel free to challenge the senior management just as much as challenging each other.”

Another element in creating this business cohesion was using psychotherapy to improve team morale because “happy people are productive people”, noted Tailby.

He added that a further ambition he and White share is to ensure that the culture at Freedom Services Group is associated with “joy” - a mission the company’s employees are already engaging with as the group’s line managers are currently taking steps to establish a management buyout offer.

Tailby explained: “What we can do is decide how we are going to behave towards each other. We can hold each other to task on that and then we can create something that’s bigger than ourselves, so that is what driving high performing teams is all about – it’s creating that safe, harmonious environment where people can be themselves, but also let’s see what they can do when all barriers are removed.” 

Freedom’s future

Next on Freedom Services Group’s agenda is bringing Australia-based insurtech MGA Stella to the UK, noted White. Meanwhile, Tailby will focus on making sure “Freedom is as solid and successful as it can possibly be”.

White also sees “lots of opportunities” to develop the business’ telematics proposition and “tap into new technologies” to improve customers’ experience.

She added: “From a business viewpoint, all we are is a collection of people trying to achieve a goal together. Generally, people do carry a lot of baggage around and they bring it into work.

“I have a lot of free child energy and I get to bounce around and do interviews on Sky and set up businesses in Australia. Sometimes it’s challenging, but it’s enjoyable - I genuinely want the people that work for me to have the opportunity to have the same kind of fun.”