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Rachel Murphy
March 12, 2019

They say it takes 40 days to change behaviour. Having been on a yoga retreat with my girlfriend and my Mum for the last 10 days, I am probably closer to some of that thinking than usual; albeit we had our fair share of chaos, hospital trips, infections and bad tummies. Let’s face it, life never stops, regardless of whether a holiday is planned. Once again though, it’s a timely reminder of how lucky we are in the UK with the NHS.

So, my first 40 days CEO-ing at Difrent.

In summary, I’ve loved it, and I feel incredibly proud of what we have achieved. I had shared individually with some of my team both the trepidation and apprehension I had about taking the role on before I decided to. If I’m honest, my decision was heavily influenced by the fact I couldn’t bear someone else coming in and taking the role, and perhaps, more importantly, I thought it was time; to put my money where my mouth was, commit, sit tight and do what I have dreamt about doing since I was playing Murphy Corporation aged 5!

I intend to share a bit of a diary every 40 days; what has gone well, what hasn’t gone so well and where I plan to refocus my time. I hope that this transparency will lead to feedback both internally and externally, whether this is via social media or direct and who knows, it may even be a useful tool for new aspiring CEO’s. Many people have said to me it’s a lonely role; I can see why people would think that. I fully intend to not do this alone. I happen to have the ‘CEO’ job title, but I have every intention of having our Advisory Board challenge me, work closely with my partner Steve, our Directors and our Delivery Management Teams. This sentiment is important to me and is something I have tagged on my Twitter profile ‘don’t get drunk on your own importance, it’s one hell of a hangover’. Ironic really, for someone who is 5 yrs sober but SO very important to me to stay grounded.

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What’s worked well in the last 40 days

  1. Launching our brand work and being clear that we want to work with ‘public good’ organisations. Hat tip to Eyecatcher for the work they have done with us
  2. The machinery of our Operations and how the company operates on a day to day basis has come on leaps and bounds. Huge thanks to Debbie for driving this forward
  3. Business engagement across Difrent is motoring ahead, our brand work was the catalyst for this and the launch of our strategy in April 2019 will help us to cement how everyone contributes personally
  4. Our Business is continuing to grow at pace and successfully deliver for our clients. We have now started work with the Department of Work & Pensions, World Health Organisation and British Psychological Society as clients since Christmas
  5. Options overseas: US/Canada and UAE. Great support from the Mayor’s international Growth programme and contacts from the Silicon Slopes event.
  6. Developing a clear and structured focus on growth and brand delights me; targeting London and Newcastle for additional clients.
  7. Sky TV; appearing on Sky and getting to share some of our client work across the NHS was a very proud moment
  8. Presenting to a 2,000 person audience at Silicon Slopes was a massive highlight for me personally and a great opportunity to talk internationally about our work
  9. Seeing our team start to share their work more widely; co-blogging with Dan Leakey and his Weeknotes also, Chris King’s continual blogging efforts

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What hasn’t worked so well in the last 40 days

  1. It has taken longer than I hoped to sort our internal systems out. Let’s face it, nothing moves quickly enough for me but replacing our website, email, changing collaboration tools and finance systems have felt a long time coming. That being said, we are probably 50% of the way through now which is fab.
  2. Relations with fellow Directors have been stressful at times. I’ve debated whether or not to be transparent about this, but I think it’s essential, to be honest. One of the lessons I have learned is to nail down Roles and Responsibilities, so we don’t end up duplicating effort or getting in each other’s way; worse still, things falling through the cracks! Tensions have been high at times, and we have pulled in some external support to help us mediate and work through some bits. I think once you are convinced you have the right line-up at the top table you must pull out all the stops to try and make things work. Steve (our Founder) and I got tighter on who is doing what and how we play to our strengths has allowed us to build a stronger foundation. I do think building an Advisory Board around our Group will help challenge us as partners to really get where we want to be.
  3. Early into me joining Difrent, we undertook a piece of work to bring a couple of graduates into Difrent in the Deployment part of our business. I’m really disappointed to share that this hasn’t played out as I had hoped; the ingredients were there for this to work, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t. We are doing a retrospective to look at why this wasn’t successful and how we improve this for the future. Growing talent will always be part of our approach, and we have been very successful in our Delivery business.
  4. I’ve blogged before about us not being successful for a bid we did for Social Work England last year; I’m still gutted about this. We have commissioned a review of how we bid for work that will include looking at why we weren’t successful for this, but I feel we should have been a great fit for it. I’m sure there is a personal element here as this is my background and as the CIO for the appointing department at DfE, it felt like a double whammy.
  5. Alan Morgans who has been very successfully running Empower the Person for NHS Digital on behalf of Difrent has now taken up a new role with Methods; we will miss working with him but hoping we can combine forces again in the future.

Where should I be focusing more of my time and energy

  1. 70% of our business is in Health, we have very publicly supported the recent NHSX announcement and are keen to expand our strategic dialogue in this space
  2. Hiring a new Director to run our Leaders business. We have been on the hunt now for 6 months to find the right person to lead this business for the Group. Fingers crossed this will be getting concluded during Q2 of 2019
  3. Strategic partnerships with companies like Difrent who have complementary skills so we can progress our ambitions around multi-vendor delivery for our clients
  4. Advisory Board; this is key for me, we have managed to convince a couple of global hitters to join us on this; over the next couple of months, this needs finalising and really getting it motoring
  5. Continuing to explore International opportunities will be a focus for me, both looking at locations, partners and tangible opportunities

Until the next 40 days,

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Written by Rachel Murphy Difrent CEO
@rachel0404

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