One of two newly elected BSA trustees, Patrick Campbell blogs here about his initial impressions. He's off to a busy start!
Norbert greets me bright eyed and smiling at 11am on a rainy Saturday morning in East London. It is my first meeting as a trustee after being elected and my first time seeing the new BSA offices. BSA HQ certainly won't be winning any office design competitions anytime soon but the small office is crammed full of stammering: books, DVDs, wristbands, motivational posters and t-shirts.
I meet the other new trustee, Jennifer (an SLT from Manchester) and Norbert begins to talk Jennifer and me through the stammering ropes: from a brief history of the BSA to advice for appearing on TV, via charity trust funding. It was an educational and surprisingly interesting three hour lay of the UK stammering landscape. My first General Committee meeting as trustee is in one week's time and without this talk it would have been bamboozling.
The General Committee meeting was perhaps saved from being bamboozling but it was still nevertheless confusing. I walk in as Ian Wilkie is outlining the Employers Stammering Network (ESN) business plan at a preliminary meeting. Ian Wilkie is a senior partner at EY (formerly Ernst & Young). Also at the table are the BSA stalwarts: Norbert and Colin Marsh (40y experience of the BSA between them). Then there is John Evans, BSA chair, and Tim Fell, Managing Director and founder of a major turfing company. I join the table with a welcoming nod from John. Ian outlines his hopes to transform the UK's workplace view on stammering – a man with small aims! Ian's personal story is rather inspiring, in brief he says he realised what you have to say is more important than how you say it in life. Many of you heard it at the Glasgow conference (and if not you can find a great interview with him here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22465298).
After a nuanced discussion of the current ability to expand the ESN to more companies without overstretching, Ian bids us farewell. The real Committee meeting is going to begin. Paul Blythe and Jennifer walk in and take their seats. The board review minutes from previous meetings to agree their accuracy. I incorrectly try to second the minutes of a meeting I didn't attend – you can't say I'm not keen! I successfully second the minutes of a meeting I did attend and we're off in to the real meat of the day’s talks.
The effect of the recent cutbacks is reviewed. The finances are still worrisome but stable. During the discussion, the air of the room is palpably tense. The room seems to halve in size and the temperature rises by 5 degrees as money dominates the talks. A bead of sweat rolls off my forehead. Forward progress requires spending but spending risks insolvency – what is the right balance? A balance is agreed and discussion moves on to membership strategies and a bit more on the ESN. The meeting draws to a close after five hours. My input has been limited but it will hopefully grow as I learn and understand more. I also accepted the role of Minutes Secretary. Norbert says it's not a concrete role but merely a formality of the constitution. Smiles all around from the other trustees… I hope it's not some sort of BSA initiation joke, like sending the intern to the shop for a long wait.