As part of the build up to Fringe 2019 we are speaking with just a few of the people that have helped us on our way and today we have popped along to the Guildford offices of Keith Churchouse, Director of Chapters Financial, parent company of Fringe Sponsors, SaidSo.
There is every chance that you may not recognise Keith’s name, but that’s not because he isn’t hugely active in his support for local arts and great causes, it’s because he is such an unassuming chap, the sort of person that does the right thing for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.
Straight away we have a bit of a problem, because whilst Keith is an accomplished writer with five books under his belt, we’re already wondering if we should have just written whilst or while and if we’ve used the comma correctly?
Oh well, as well as being unassuming he’s far too polite to mention our grammar.
One of the first questions we asked Keith was about the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programme at Chapters Financial.
‘We don’t have one.’
We started Chapters Financial in 2004, I had been working in the industry for quite a few years prior to this and one of the key messages that I had picked up from a number of my better employers was ‘only influence what you can influence’. I looked at the town of Guildford and thought that I would try to help where I could and influence what I could influence.
We try to serve a community that has always served us…it’s as simple as that really.’
In what ways do you help?
‘There are certain principles that are common to the vast majority of healthy businesses, so whether I am helping in my capacity as a board member of Experience Guildford, Chair of Headway Surrey, or advising arts and entertainment groups, I try to apply these methods for the benefit of the organisation. The correct procedures are important to any business, but in my experience they are absolutely vital for new companies.’
So, do you get a particular ‘buzz’ working with new charities and arts organisations?
Absolutely. Not just arts or voluntary organisations though, new businesses in any sector excite me and it is truly gratifying to see a fledgling business take flight and become established. My father was a bank manager and every day he would meet and help business owners by making sure that they got things right from the outset, I suppose some of this has rubbed off on me?’
Guildford Fringe was a start-up when I first met Nick. I could see straight away that he had the drive, ambition and contacts to provide a great festival of entertainment for Guildford, so of course my interest was immediate.
Five books is quite an achievement.
I enjoy the process of writing and I would recommend it to anyone, it is hugely cathartic and helps ‘clear the clutter’. My advice is do not be shy and do not be scared because whatever you write will be brilliant, maybe not everybody will appreciate it or even want to read it, but it will be brilliant to somebody.
Esther and I actually have our own publishing house, we are probably never going to have a best-selling blockbuster but there is more to value than copies sold, not commercial is not the same thing as not good.’
What can you tell us about Headway Surrey?
We provide rehabilitation sessions for victims of brain injury and support for carers, I am involved in my capacity as Chairperson and I help with business planning. The charity, along with very many others has faced considerable challenges in recent years, changes in funding and legislation have certainly made our work considerably more difficult.
However, I like to think that we have faced these tests and are stronger as a result, call it best practice, good-housekeeping or common sense, we continue to apply the same sound business principles that I spoke of earlier.
…and finally Keith, which one quality are you most proud of in yourself?
Is energy a quality? Let’s say it is, I am proud of having the energy to add to the fabric of Guildford, a town that has been very good to me.