Nigel Doughty: 1957-2012

On 5th November 2012 a Memorial Service was held for Nigel Doughty in Westminster Cathedral.  The video of the eulogy delivered by David Grayson at Nigel Doughty's Memorial Service can be viewed here. The transcript of the address is below.

NIGEL DOUGHTY MEMORIAL SERVICE, WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL, OCTOBER 5TH 2012 – DAVID GRAYSON 

Thanks to Nigel, I work in a business school. So you won't be too surprised if I start by quoting a professor - a Harvard professor - Clayton Christensen - he is a bit of a guru for his work on disruptive innovation. But the reason I am talking about him is because he has given one of those wonderful 17 minute TED talks. His subject is how to measure the success of your life. It is not, he says, about how much money you make or about how high you climb up the hierarchy. 

"When I have my interview with God at the end of my life," says Prof Christensen, "He is going to ask me: 'about the individual people whose lives I touched, whom I helped to become better people; whose lives I blessed because I applied the talents God gave me, to help others.' " 

Nigel achieved great material success. He and Dick Hanson built a great business which - directly and indirectly - has provided jobs and generated wealth for many people - not least the pensioners whose pension funds were partly invested in Doughty Hanson. 

Nigel achieved status too - going to Davos and working with business and political leaders - even Prime Ministers - as we saw earlier. 

But even more importantly, Nigel succeeded on that Clayton Christensen measure: he touched the lives of individuals for the better. We have heard how he did that in so many different spheres. 

He used some of the wealth he had made to help others. His philanthropy was generous, focused and carefully planned to maximise the impact. But he also touched the lives of the people working in the organisations that he and Lucy supported, so they too were inspired to do more. 

"With Nigel you sat up that bit straighter, you thought that bit quicker," says Amanda Tincknell who runs the admirable Cranfield Trust which mobilises pro-pono management time and expertise of MBAs not just from Cranfield but many other business schools too, to help smaller charities become more effective. Amanda adds: "he had that great combination – he was able to push you forward without you feeling pushed forward. He made you come up with better ideas, to go further." 

He didn’t just write cheques. He understood that his business success gave him calling power and he used that judiciously for Cranfield Trust and the NSPCC and the other charities and causes he supported. There is a remarkable consistency in how people in these organisations speak of him. He had no side, no airs and graces. He would muck in - whether quietly turning up with his daughter Helena one Sunday, to quiz Jenny Farr in Nottinghamshire NSPCC about child abuse and domestic violence, before making major donations to NSPCC Nottinghamshire’s Full Stop appeal and later to Child-line; or as the hands-on chairman of the capital appeal, and then President, of the Cranfield Trust quietly arriving for a strategy day in the none too palatial surroundings of a Girl Guides camp in the New Forest. 

Michelle Giddens of Bridges Venture Trust, which has done so much to transform ideas and practice about how to finance social enterprises - especially those with the aspiration and the potential to grow - talks of Nigel interrogating the arguments, but once convinced being prepared to stick his neck out, to lead from the front. He didn't need to wait for the reassurance of others joining in. He was a leader: individually and/or through Doughty Hanson supporting each successive round of capital raising by Bridges. "You would sit in meetings," says Michelle Giddens, "and often he would say relatively little, but then make a short intervention, very pithy, absolutely spot on, never to foreclose others." 

The experiences of Amanda, Jenny and Michelle and others very much echo my own. 

I first met Nigel in late 2006, as one of several academic and practitioner candidates to be founder director of the Centre for Corporate Responsibility that he was sponsoring at Cranfield School of Management – where he had completed his MBA two decades earlier. He asked searching questions – but in a pleasant, conversational manner that was simultaneously disarming yet demanding. 

Now I have to confess that before that first time I met Nigel, I had to google beforehand just to remind myself: was it Forest or City? 

I know.... Like where I come from, asking Wednesday or United?.... Or even worse, United or Wednesday! 

A few weeks later, when to my great surprise and delight, I was chosen, we met for a “get to know-you” 1:1 dinner. We were of a similar age. We had both grown up in mining districts of the East Midlands. We quickly discovered a similar interest in politics and public affairs – and just as quickly, different political affiliations – but with a shared understanding of the need for both greater international competitiveness and greater social cohesion – not as rival choices but as mutually essential and reinforcing. 

At this first 1:1, Nigel was clear. He was pleased to be able to found the new Centre – but he didn’t want to interfere – and if I ever thought he was inadvertently interfering, I should say so. I can see the scene now so clearly even five years on. I thanked him but added that I thought it was far more likely that I would be the one asking for more of his time and input not less – and that if anyone was going to be pushing back, it would be him pushing back to me that I was being too demanding of his involvement. 

If the Centre subsequently ever was too demanding, he never indicated. Instead he was always ready to host a suggested meeting, and help us to bring people together. In our regular 1:1 catch-ups, however busy he was with other work, he was eager to hear of our progress and the challenges we were encountering – and quick to share some insight from Davos or wherever, that might help to reinforce our thinking. 

He always made the time however busy and always followed up with any introduction or report promised. He was never grumpy, never negative - always encouraging you to think more ambitiously. And how typical of this wonderfully modest man, that Cranfield had to work hard to persuade him that the new centre should be the ‘Doughty Centre’ rather than the ‘Cranfield Centre.’ How pleased he would be to know that a review this summer of the Cranfield MBA, has concluded that corporate responsibility and ethics will become core components of our MBA from 2013-14. 

In chatting to people for today, I was struck by how hard all of us found to speak in the past tense about Nigel. As if that big man with that amused smile was even now going to come round the corner. That is why it is such a brilliant idea of Lucy's to capture on film, the memories of people who knew him whilst they are still fresh, as something for family and friends to refer to, and draw inspiration from, in years to come. 

For that was the other thing about Nigel, even in work meetings, there were frequent references to his family - they were clearly sources of great joy and strength. 

To paraphrase from one of Nigel’s favourite quotations: Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena: Nigel was a man 

“in the arena, who strove to do the deeds; who knew great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spent himself in worthy causes”. 

Together, kind, fun, generous, engaged, inspirational. He used the talents that God gave him not just for himself but to touch the lives of others, he blessed us with his friendship. Our lives are all the better for that
.

David Grayson also wrote a remembrance of Nigel Doughty for Cranfield Forum; the text is appended below.

REMEMBERING A DEDICATED CHAMPION OF SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

The long journey to more sustainable business needs many different contributors. We need critical NGOs ready to challenge bad business behaviour; able advisers who can help businesses find profitable sustainability solutions; thinkers able to conceptualise the issues and teach others. There is an especial need for successful capitalists who have built up businesses and who carry credibility with their peers, to champion sustainability.

Nigel Doughty was one of the latter. His sudden death at the very early age of 54 is a grievous loss. For me, he was not just a very generous and thoughtful initiator and sponsor of the business school centre that bears his name. He was also a wise counsellor, a clever connector and indefatigable networker, a powerful ambassador – and a good friend.

I first met Nigel in late 2006, as one of several academic and practitioner candidates to be founder director of the Centre for Corporate Responsibility that he was sponsoring at Cranfield School of Management – where he had completed his MBA two decades earlier. He asked searching questions – but in a pleasant, conversational manner that was simultaneously disarming yet demanding.

A few weeks later, when to my great surprise and delight, I was chosen, we met for a “get to know-you” 1:1 dinner. We were of a similar age. We had both grown up in mining districts of the East Midlands. We quickly discovered a similar interest in politics and public affairs – and just as quickly, different political affiliations – but with a shared understanding of the need for both greater international competitiveness and greater social cohesion – not as rival choices but as mutually essential and reinforcing.

At this first 1:1, Nigel was clear. He was pleased to be able to found the new Centre – but he didn't want to interfere – and if I ever thought he was inadvertently interfering, I should say so. I can see the scene now so clearly even five years on. I thanked him but added that I thought it was far more likely that I would be the one asking for more of his time and input not less – and that if anyone was going to be pushing back, it would be him pushing back to me that I was being too demanding of his involvement.

If the Centre subsequently ever was too demanding, he never indicated. Instead he was always ready to host a suggested meeting, and help us to bring people together. In our regular 1:1 catch-ups, however busy he was with other work, he was eager to hear of our progress and the challenges we were encountering – and quick to share some insight from Davos or wherever, that might help to reinforce our thinking.

At what was to be our last meeting, just before Christmas, he was enthusiastically involved in suggesting speakers for our fifth anniversary conference, and how we could be best involved in the current political and business and academic debates about responsible capitalism. He was clear that the argument for a new more responsible capitalism should be “hard-headed – not soft-hearted.” We talked about a recent visit he had made to Washington and his debates there with some of the right-wing think tanks who seemed confused that such a successful financier could be so active in Labour Party politics.

For Nigel didn't just put his money where his mouth was. He got actively engaged – whether that was with his beloved Nottingham Forest, or politics or promoting social enterprise or volunteering – or in practicing sustainable business. He encouraged Doughty Hanson – the private equity business he had co-founded with his partner Dick Hanson – to appoint a head of sustainability. Crucially, this post was made part of the value-enhancement team – they were stewards of other people’s investments and as responsible stewards, they had to ensure that sustainability would pay.

This reflected Nigel’s view – expressed in a recent report (Private equity and responsible investment: an opportunity for value creation – Nov 2011), that Doughty Hanson produced in collaboration with the NGO WWF – that:

“Private equity managers are particularly well-placed to promote sustainable business practices through active management of their portfolio companies ….Such an approach can create additional value for all stakeholders and reduces the financial and reputational risks to which they are exposed.”

We have lost a dedicated, active citizen; a generous and practical philanthropist; and a successful businessman who believed passionately that sustainability is integral to long-term business success.