W&R Barnett is the largest family-owned business in Northern Ireland, and is the 48th largest private business in the UK, and with a record turnover of £1.4BN in 2020, the company has experienced considerable growth in recent years - with its interests extending from Agri-business to corrugated packaging. This doesn’t mean that it has all been plain sailing, and along with the rest of the business community, 2020 has thrown its share of challenges their way.
The W&R Barnett group of businesses are highly diversified, and therefore management of the group as a whole is no mean feat. Being spread over numerous countries, time zones, and industries means that holding the reins of this expanding enterprise is a far cry from when it was founded in 1896.
In 2019, W&R Barnett decided to implement Sherpany to bring structure, security, and efficiency to its formal leadership meetings. We caught up with CEO William Barnett to find out how Sherpany has impacted the leadership of his family’s business.
W&R Barnett is organised in a multi-company structure and is spread across a number of countries. This means that printing and transporting documents ahead of leadership meetings was challenging - especially when directors of the company are often required to travel. Also, in the current situation, where remote working is the norm, not everyone has access to a high quality printer at all times.
In addition to this, the security of these physical documents was a concern. W&R Barnett began reviewing options to digitalise their meetings, and William Barnett describes one of the key reasons as follows: “The idea of someone leaving a briefcase behind on a train, or misplacing key management information, was front of mind when taking the decision to implement a meeting management solution.”
The need to digitalise meeting processes was abundantly clear to W&R Barnett. The company sought a tool that would allow them to manage meeting materials in a robust and digital way, giving directors the ability to search documents and recall outcomes from previous meetings, as well as making the process of organising meetings more streamlined.
Mr. Barnett describes the decision to implement a meeting management solution in the following way: “For us it was the ability to essentially take your entire filing cabinet with you wherever you go.” He continued by saying
“As a meeting organiser myself, I am pleased with how intuitive the process of uploading documents in Sherpany is.”
Security was another driving factor in W&R Barnett’s selection process. With a number of non-executive directors and an expanding team, being able to share different levels of information with different stakeholders, both internal and external to the organisation, was vital. Mr. Barnett stated that “The ability to set different levels of security for different users was important in our decision to choose Sherpany. This feature allows us to retain control over our management information, and share only the relevant parts with those who are outside of our company.”
W&R Barnett uses Sherpany for all of their board meetings and the related committee meetings. Directors also use it for formal meetings, when there are multiple agenda items or a requirement to document the meeting outcomes.
Once a company decides to implement Sherpany, our experienced Customer Success team collaborates with leaders to ensure that a seamless transition to digital meetings is undertaken. This varies from client to client, and for an organisation such as W&R Barnett, where leadership meetings were already considered to be effective, it was more a case of enhancing and developing existing protocol as they switched to digital ways of working.
Speaking of the key benefits to his company, Mr. Barnett stated that,
“Sherpany has improved the structure of our formal meetings and has also built accountability into the organisation process. For example, now that meeting materials can be circulated so immediately, it creates the impetus to share them in a timely manner.”
From the perspective of security, Sherpany gives W&R Barnett the confidence that their vital management information is kept confidential and secure, and is only shared with the appropriate individuals. Having meeting materials centralised significantly reduces the propensity for carelessness, and means that sensitive information has far less chance of falling into the wrong hands.
Sherpany has reduced the lag between finalising meeting materials and the meeting itself; before using Sherpany, W&R Barnett’s meeting materials had to be finalised a week ahead of time, and by using Sherpany this has been reduced down to three days, meaning that meetings rely on more up-to-date and accurate information and reducing the need for last-minute changes.
Directors at W&R Barnett embraced the introduction of Sherpany with very little training required in order for them to begin using the software. Mr. Barnett commented that: “The software is very intuitive and straightforward, more so than some of the competing platforms that we reviewed. Sherpany is very user friendly.” He continued by saying that, “The portability of Sherpany is a significant benefit for our directors. Being able to access all meeting materials remotely, even when they’re offline, is very helpful.”
About W&R Barnett:
Founded in 1896 as a grain merchant, W&R Barnett is the holding company of a diversified group of international commodity trading, storage, agribusiness, and industrial companies.
The company is a global trader of molasses and related commodities, and is the leading trader of animal feed commodities in Ireland. The company is also a prominent supplier of storage facilities to the UK food, feed, industrial and energy sectors.
W&R Barnett employs more than 1,400 people across three countries, and is Northern Ireland’s largest family-owned business - run today by CEO William Barnett. For more information, visit their website.
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