Steve Watson – Executive Director, The Channel Partnership

We are committed to upskilling our colleagues and encouraging progression across all of our Group companies. We are therefore delighted to launch our ‘Guiding Growth’ series to spotlight our specialists who have joined our Group through acquisition and have progressed into leadership roles.

Steve Watson

To kickstart the series, we caught up with Steve Watson, Executive Director at The Channel Partnership (TCP), our dedicated Trade Credit business which was acquired in February 2021.

Hi Steve, thank you for joining us today. Can you start by telling us when you joined The Channel Partnership and what your position was at the time?

I joined The Channel Partnership in June 2003, so this year will be my 20th anniversary! My first role was supporting an Account Executive with administrative duties. It’s safe to say I started from the very bottom.

How has your role developed over the last 20 years?

In 2004 I was promoted to Account Executive, and I started building my own book of clients, some of which I still look after today. I was an Account Executive for 4 years and then in 2008, I progressed into an Assistant Director role where I started to manage our Account Executive team and get more involved in the running of the company, whilst still looking after my own clients. I moved into a full Director role in 2013 and then in August 2022, I was promoted to Executive Director, when our former Managing Director, Tom Rolfe, stepped down following his retirement.

In the lead up to our acquisition by Specialist Risk Group (SRG) in February 2021, I was heavily involved in the due diligence process which was a big learning curve and really interesting experience.  Since then, I have spent a lot of time helping to integrate our systems, processes, and budgets with SRG, all of which are running smoothly in the background and now I feel like we are in good position to make 2023 an incredible year for The Channel Partnership.

And most recently, you have become Executive Director. Congratulations! Can you tell us more?

Thank you! My role has naturally progressed to this stage as I had already been running the business in terms of the team and client relationship. However, this new role means that I am heavily involved in the business management and responsible for new business which was Tom’s remit. Therefore, I am working a lot closer with SRG’s business development team which is really helpful. It has been a huge learning curve going from an independent broker in Bristol, to being part of a rapidly growing Group, however, it has been great for me to expand my reach as we now have so many more capabilities.

I have an amazing team around me and as we continue to get bigger, I will strive to support them and make sure they are comfortable doing what they are doing.

I feel immensely proud of getting to where I am and for SRG having the confidence in me to lead The Channel Partnership as its Executive Director.

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Thanks Steve. What do you enjoy the most about your role?

I love the variation. I have been in the business for almost 20 years, and it doesn’t feel stagnant. There is always something new to learn which keeps me motivated. Being part of SRG has opened so many doors for me and my team, which wouldn’t have been available before our acquisition. I am really enjoying working with businesses across the Group, meeting new people and working out how we can all work together and support each other.

I can’t forget managing my team, they are a great bunch, and it works really well.

What are your plans for The Channel Partnership in 2023, and what opportunities do you see arising this year?

The Channel Partnership has grown steadily over the years, but with the support and backing of SRG, we have the opportunity to do even more this year, which is really exciting. 2023 is going to be a tough year for many businesses, we are already seeing an increase in Trade Credit insurance claims, and reports are suggesting that we will see an influx in insolvencies in the coming months.

A big focus for us is working with other SRG companies to get to know their clients and work out how we can support them during this economically challenging time.

I am most looking forward to the new opportunities my new role brings, and I can’t wait to see what The Channel Partnership does in the next 12 months.

Sounds like a really exciting time for The Channel Partnership! Is there anyone you have looked up to for inspiration?

Not so much for inspiration but definitely for confidence in believing in myself and my abilities, I have worked with a Business Coach, Ann Sherrington, for over 10 years which has been great as my career has progressed to where I am today. Ann has helped me expand my knowledge and skill set and at times when I thought I was out of my depth, she helped me to see where I had come from, what I had achieved and that I have the ability to go further.  Thanks Ann!

Thanks Steve. What do you do to grow professionally?

In 2021, outside of work and in my own time, I completed two levels of the ILM Certificate in Leadership and Management. I think it is important to continuously improve my skillset to ensure I am the best manager I can be for my team.

I am also part of a local networking group called Circle2Success which has allowed me to grow my professional network. Their talks and seminars have given me greater knowledge around what challenges businesses and people face and how they approach and deal with them, as well as different leadership styles.

That leads us on nicely to the next question. What is one piece of advice you wish someone gave you at the beginning of your career?

I would say it’s good to have a goal in mind, then have a plan in place to get to where you want to be. It means you are always working towards something, and it makes it easier to stick to things rather than giving up, which can often feel like the easy option.

What benefits have you experienced since being part of SRG?

The key thing is the opportunities it has bought us. Being able to give the team the chance to grow and develop through schemes such as the High Potential Programme (HiPo) is something that The Channel Partnership wouldn’t have been able to do on our own. This ensures that the team are happy, and they have goals to work towards which of course helps with staff retention, which is really important to us!       

Also, there is a huge amount of expertise within SRG which we can make use of to get The Channel Partnership where we want to be. Prior to the acquisition, we did as much as we could do, and we were ticking over nicely however, we now have access to a range of people, departments, and systems to help us take the business to the next level.

On a personal note, it would be the relationships I have been able to make in the Group. SRG has a real focus on people and culture, and socially, they are a really great group of people. During company events such as The Hub, there are always so many opportunities to meet new people and catch up with others, which has helped in terms of my own development and the business’s.

To finish off, what three words would you use to describe working at The Channel Partnership and SRG?

Collaborative, fulfilling and exciting!