Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Calming Voice of Experience; WINNER Dr Alan Rutherford OBE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Calming Voice of Experience; WINNER Dr Alan Rutherford OBE

Article excerpt

AN enthusiasm for whisky and the drinks sector runs through Alan Rutherford's career.

Mr Rutherford OBE holds non-executive appointments ranging from Wemyss, a family business with a PS60m turn over, to Compass Box, a Scotch Whisky maker with 12 employees and global ambitions.

But it's the smaller and middlesized businesses that excite him. "SMEs are the life blood of the UK. Our economy depends on their success," he says, having owned two small companies.

The former Gosforth Grammar School boy served at board level with Scottish and Newcastle, and Diageo. At Diageo he held advisory roles at Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Council of the Scotch Whisky Association. This is where he acquired a taste for the non-executive type of role.

At the same time he developed a relish for start ups. Understanding finance is critical, led him to be a founder of the Advisory Board of Scottish Co-Investment Fund. He began to help and support businesses in an ad hoc way. This became a progression into nonexecutive roles.

The appointment at the Port of Tyne was different. It is the only one of the six boards he sits on that had a formal, open selection process. It is also different because his other non executive directorships are related to whisky. The other exception is NaRec where he was asked to join the board to focus on business strategy.

However, after his PhD in chemical engineering, he worked for the Cookson Group and Clarke Chapman, so there is undoubted experience. This is important. Alan is adamant that non-executive directors must have sector knowledge and says: "I disagree with people who say this isn't necessary. The only exceptions I would make are if a board needs a specialist skill set such as finance or health and safety."

He is equally firm about the role of a non-executive: "It's all about support, advice, guidance and enthusiasm. …

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