Developing the new generation of DSW leaders

Pete Fendall explains how he helped create the DSW Future Leaders programme with BecomingX – and the benefits for participants, including himself.

Developing the new generation of DSW leaders
Pete Fendall (left) with our CEO, James Dow

How did BecomingX come about?

I joined DSW from Deloitte with a mission to expand the Dow Schofield Watts network. Effectively our brand consists of a range of licensee businesses, and we recognise that Partners within them may need help with succession planning. We wanted to empower professionals to reach their potential and invest in the next generation of DSW’s future leaders.

We approached BecomingX – which was set up by CEO Paul Gurney with Bear Grylls, the TV presenter, adventurer and best-selling author – and between us, we developed this course, which will become an annual programme.

How did you choose the participants?

We wanted to keep the numbers small to achieve the maximum benefit for participants and establish long-lasting relationships across the group. The first cohort consisted of 12 professionals nominated from different businesses within the DSW network and with a range of backgrounds and experience. Some are already Partners, while others are Directors, Investment Managers or Associate Directors. I’m wearing two hats – in addition to helping to develop the course, I am also a participant myself!

All Future Leaders participants

How is the course going for you?

Engagement levels are very high, and it’s a really interesting challenge. On my part, I love having time away from the business. I’m a big believer in continual learning and development and taking on board as much as I can to grow.

To have a breathing space in my unique role has allowed me to gain so much knowledge about the individual businesses in the network and the people, and the opportunity to share ideas across the group, is priceless. The best thing is that I can go away and implement the ideas – I have a big ‘to-do’ list.

What have you gleaned from guest speakers?

We have heard from people who have built successful businesses by different routes and had very successful careers, including the former CEO of Accenture plc and impressive entrepreneurs such as Mark Corbett, who founded Thrust Carbon which provides an award-winning sustainability intelligence platform. From my perspective, perhaps most useful was David Tomlinson of Accenture, who gave us a new perspective on how to negotiate ‘win-win’ outcomes and build a pipeline of opportunities.

Having fun at the conference

What are the benefits so far?

We’ve learned to recognise our individual strengths and build additional ones – filling in the gaps in what we already have, either through personal learning or by identifying strengths in the team we build around us. There’s been something really beneficial for everyone.

Many of us have come to DSW from the ‘big four’, and we recognise that we are here for similar reasons in that we want something more – such as more autonomy and to create a business that reflects our priorities and ambitions. BecomingX has given us the opportunity to understand further the different businesses, speak with people we don’t usually speak with, and strengthen relationships.

All DSW participants and sponsors

What specific projects are you working on?

We have a live business plan with real scenarios facing the business, and as there are 12 participants, there are 12 different perspectives!  We’re working on an Induction Plan to help us to welcome new individuals or teams joining the DSW network. Effectively they are starting their own business, and we want to support them fully, but we also need to help onboard them with DSW’s DNA and integrate them into the wider DSW network to maximise the benefits of joining. The BecomingX team all have personal experience of this and so can provide valuable feedback and ideas on how to enhance the experience for others.

We’ve gone from 40 professionals to 97 in a relatively short space of time. Much of this growth has happened in the last two years, and we need to invest in our network to maintain this momentum. Each new joiner brings a unique perspective, and the DSW model enables individuals to ‘have their say’ on the wider network, creating real change across the business. We’ll be hosting our first-ever DSW employee-wide conference in September in Manchester, where everyone can share ideas – another employee-led initiative which has evolved from the Future Leaders Programme.

What’s next for you?

After nearly two years at DSW, I have a thorough understanding of its DNA and culture, and BecomingX has enhanced that. I’ve worked to pull together our mission, vision, purpose and values, which I’ve also used to shape our ESG strategy.

I’m a keen problem solver and enjoy developing strategies and solutions from scratch, and I’m able to cut through and deliver what works for the business. I’ve recently been promoted from Strategic Projects Director to Business Development & Operations Director, and I will continue to do that in my new role, enhancing the value provided to our licensees.