“Growth companies tend to need three things: wisdom, customers, and money.”
As summer begins, we gather around the digital campfire to once again illuminate our members’ inspiring stories of growth and breakthrough. Gracing the spotlight today we have David Goldstone, a leader in the realm of executive search, NED development, and investment.
David Goldstone brings over 30 years of expertise to the table. As the CEO Founder of Goldstone Associates, he has crafted a reputation for unearthing exceptional talent, matching the right executives with growth-oriented businesses and organisations, from CEOs, CTOs and CFOs to Heads of Sales, Operations and Legal. More recently, David founded VOCASO, a vibrant hub where brilliance converges, the best minds collaborate, and growth companies can access fee-free connections to fuel their expansion.
In this exclusive interview, David peels back the layers, sharing it all from the roots of his passion for inspiring and being inspired by scaling/growing organisations, the joys and challenges of captaining VOCASO, and the benefits of being a part of the Home Grown Community.
Settle into your comfiest chair and let’s dive in.
First, we ask David how it all began.
“I moved from Manchester to London 27 years ago, started in agency recruitment for a finance recruiter, and very quickly moved into retained search with Norman Broadbent, where I spent three years, and ran their technology, media and telecoms practice. I then joined a company called Osprey Clarke Executive Search and soon after bought the company from the founder. I managed and grew the business for 18 years, running retained Executive Search assignments for a broad range of global corporations including American Express, GE, eBay, Whitbread, WH Smith, all sorts of organisations, recruiting senior executives all over the world. It was a real privilege working closely with senior executives. I met some fascinating and inspirational people.
When COVID came along, I had a rethink about my strategy, and decided to exit the business. I sold Osprey Clarke and launched Goldstone Associates, which is also an Executive Search firm, but focused on growth companies.
We help scaling organisations build their senior leadership teams – we are often recruiting their first CEO, CFO, and head of legal, and help them strategize and build their teams out. We also offer leadership advisory services, such as assessment, team development, and high performing team workshops. When it feels right, we also invest in the companies we work for.
So, over the last three years, we’ve built a portfolio of growing companies across several sectors. Our clients are very varied, from electric vehicles to circular economy, to fintech, Healthtech, and insuretech. Most of our business comes through referrals, recommendations, and our extensive legacy network,” David says.
Now onto VOCASO. We ask David what it is all about.
“I launched VOCASO in February. VOCASO is a response to a question I’m being asked virtually every week: How do the senior executives that I’ve got to know over the last 30 years develop as board advisors, or non-exec directors?
In the UK, particularly, it’s quite difficult for senior execs to attain these sorts of roles, because the companies that are hiring are looking for previous board experience as well as quite specific skills and types of candidates.
NED roles come with a lot of responsibility and liability that not everybody wants, going on a training course as preparation isn’t necessarily going to get you a NED role. Many of the execs we know are not interested in reading a huge board pack and then sitting in a board meeting, discussing corporate governance and overseas activities that they have a liability for.
What they’re really interested in is helping growing companies to develop and be successful.
So, I took that idea and that concept, and I created VOCASO, a community of senior executives who want to do board advisory work,” David says.
We are curious to know more about VOCASO’s business model
“We take an annual subscription fee from the community members and in return we offer a range of services. We put on a monthly live online expert webinar, two or three in-person events a year – some of which will be hosted here in Home Grown -, and we connect them with growth companies who are interested in connecting with rockstar business leaders, but we don’t charge a fee to the growth companies.
The growth companies who might want to meet with our members do not pay a penny. The members pay VOCASO an annual fee to help develop them as non-exec directors, and we offer them training, webinars, and connections.
Growth companies tend to need three things. They need wisdom, customers, and money. And we’re helping them with the first two for free. Nobody else is doing what we’re doing,” says David.
What kind of rockstar business leaders?
“Anything you can imagine. For example, our community includes the Head of retail from one of the largest UK retailers; the ex-head of Legal fand Regulation from one of the big retail banks; the ex-head of private banking from a major investment bank; an ex-head of media Broadcasting from one of the largest UK broadcasters.
All these people are interested in helping growth companies and the growth companies can access these people and get advice and help and develop their businesses through them. I only launched the business in February but have already introduced the CTO of one of the UKs largest B2C insurers to a health tech; the Head of retail who had responsibility for 2500 stores in the UK to a snack food manufacturer; a corporate financier who’s building a music fund to a music licencing company chairman, and many more. It’s going really well,” David says.
We ask David for examples of a company that was successfully connected to a business leader by VOCASO
“There is a company called Holly Health, a female founded health tech business that has developed an app that has now been downloaded over 25,000 times. It’s a health app for mental and physical health scaling across NHS Primary Care practices and local authorities supporting thousands of member of the public. The Cofounder and CEO Grace Gimson needed help with the challenges that come with scaling a speed as well as understanding more about how the NHS engages with external organisations.
So, she came to VOCASO. We looked into our community membership and found that there was a member of ours called Steve Woodford, who is the ex-Chief Technology Officer for Comparethemarket.com he certainly knows how to scale a B2C platform. In addition, he is currently on the NHS digital board as a non-exec director. We put them together, and now Steve has been hired by Holly Health as an advisor to help them grow,” David explains.
But how does David connect with growth companies? And has he ever met any at Home Grown?
“Home Grown has been an amazing place to meet growth companies, because this is where a lot of them come to work and network, at a time when they’re tackling problems that they’re not used to.
One of our growth companies is Tasty Mates. Co-Founder of Tasty Mates, Joe Woolf, is a Home Grown member and when I came across his member spotlight, I connected with him. We started chatting and he told me all about his business, and how he was raising money and needed to connect with some great people. So, I recently introduced him to one of my members, who runs a food service business and is helping him talk about supply chain overseas manufacturing and importing to the UK. To date, I have connected Joe with 3 of my members.” says David
How about some of the challenges involved in growing VOCASO?
“I’ve launched and funded this business myself, so I’m only too aware of the challenges that comes with growing a new business. I’ve learned to always put contingencies aside as naturally it will also be more expensive than expected to have a fantastic offering. I had to make a lot of choices about the type of people I was going to employ and the type of website that I was going to have. As I also run a second business, my Executive Search company, juggling and balancing both and giving both attention has been quite a challenge. Yet another challenge is that, though we are not charging any fees, many growth companies seem a bit reluctant to engage, at least initially. They think it’s too good to be true, almost. But at the end of the day, any connection is a good connection. You never know where it’s going to lead.”
We ask David how he finds his experience of growing VOCASO in comparison with everything he’d done before.
“I’m enjoying it. I’ve always worked in traditional, big corporate environments and this has given me a chance to really get close to a more vibrant business community, particularly through Home Grown, where everyone is up for a discussion and wants to help each other out. I mean, just a minute ago, I just started talking to the lady next to me, Gabriella, and she told me about her business.
They’re a start-up business, who help private aesthetic and plastic surgery clinics take payment in stages (like Klarna but for aesthetic procedures). I was able to immediately put her in touch with the head of business development for a private clinic based in the north of England, as well as with the CEO of an aesthetics clinic in Knightsbridge.”
That’s very nice of David! How does it feel to be a serial connector?
“Well, I don’t mind. Over the years I have developed a great network and have always been happy to share! I’ve probably got over 7000 LinkedIn connections, the majority of whom are C suite execs cross sector, function and geography. A factor of doing what I do for so long.”
We ask David how his experience at Home Grown has been so far
“I joined Home Grown two and a half years ago. I’m here most Tuesdays and Thursdays and go to quite a few events. I would encourage anyone to come to as many events as possible. I’ve found everyone very friendly and approachable, and I’ve got to know lots of people. The nice thing about it as a CEO is coming to a friendly place where you get to swap stories and ideas. The staff are very nice. I bought them all cookies a couple of times. Plus, as I said, I meet people every time I’m here, such as Peter Jones, CEO of Trusted Network and Home Grown ambassador, and Chloe Smith, CEO of Tuft Global, either by hanging out around the club or at the events that you’ve been putting on. I keep threatening to bring my Golden Retriever, Dexter, but I’m not sure I will be as welcome after that!”
We can’t let David go before first asking him about a quote he lives by
“Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.”
We do like that one!
As a true people person, David is always eager to engage with fellow Home Grown members. Whether he’s indulging in Tasty Mates or engaging in impromptu conversations with his table neighbours, you’ll be likely to find David at the club most Tuesdays and Thursdays.
If you’re a growing business looking for support reach out to David at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s always up for a chat! Remember – no fees – just imagine where an intro coffee could lead with a sector rockstar…
If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.