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The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Tony Cocker

Hoggett Bowers 2 minute interview
Tony Cocker, Independent non-Executive Director and Chair

Tony Cocker is an independent non-Executive Director.  He is currently a non-Executive Director of SSE plc (the FTSE listed energy business), Chair of Infinis Energy Management Ltd (a leading distributed power generator), Chair of Affinity Water Ltd (the largest water-only supplier in the UK), and Governor and vice-Chair of the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation.

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

I chaired two Board meetings and a Strategy Awayday this week, all by Teams – and I’m finding that I’m working harder to prepare for meetings and also to try to ensure that we’re focusing our time on the most important topics, and that each Board member is able to contribute their key questions or comments.  Of course, the objectives are the same as for a physical meeting, but it does feel much more intense. 

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month? 

I’m involved in four organisations which provide essential services to their communities and customers.  I have been truly impressed by the way in which each of them reacted to the crisis, quickly created a new normal, with all essential work continuing, almost all staff now working from home, in the field, or on production sites, and is now keeping connected with colleagues.  As a non-Exec, the requirements from each organisation have been somewhat different, but one consistent element has been to focus on the future – the steps to emerge from lockdown, the longer-term strategic direction, and threats and opportunities from post-Covid.

Best thing about working from home/remotely?

I have really enjoyed seeing spring develop in our village on my daily outings – the blossom emerging and then falling, the trees going into full leaf, the gardens flowering, birds and the birdsong.  

Worst thing about working from home/remotely? 

I do miss the face to face contact, the quick catch ups over coffee or around the margins of meetings.

What is the most significant change to the way you work as a consequence of the lockdown?

As well as the obvious absence of travel, I have also been more proactive in keeping in contact with colleagues through calls, Teams, or Zoom. 

What changes are you most likely to keep and what will you definitely not continue, post lockdown?

Post lockdown, I’m sure that I will still do a large portion of my work from home and do less travel than before.  We’ve proved that many meetings can work efficiently with Zoom and Teams, and that webinars can replace physical seminars for a lot of discussions.

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

Lots of people!  One group would be the staff in the Care Home where my father lived.  They are giving exemplary care in situations where social distancing just doesn’t work, with (as far as I could see) limited PPE.  They have worked hard to keep themselves isolated for their own health and that of their residents (for example, one asked her partner to stop working in his job in a retailer to reduce the risk of infection).  The Home locked down early, and have (so far and touch wood), no cases of Covid-19. 

Best programme/film you watched on TV/streaming this week?

Michael Portillo’s railway journey in Malaysia.  It brought back great memories as my wife and I had our honeymoon in Malaysia.  I also like his approach to these journeys and the people he meets. 

Are you doing more or less exercise than a typical week when you commute and if more, what?

I think slightly less exercise.   I am walking more, but not going to the gym … and not walking up escalators on the underground in London.

What are you consuming more of (that you should not be) now you are not in an office environment?

Bars of dark chocolate. 

Any words of wisdom?

I’m not sure that I have any words of wisdom!  However, I am finding it helpful to watch webinars with perspectives from different businesses and beyond.  It’s interesting and broadening to hear how others are managing now and thinking about their future.