Guy Rigby and his rowing partner David Murray will attempt to be the oldest pair to row across the Atlantic to raise money for social entrepreneurship. Their boat, The Entrepreneur Ship, will leave the Canaries in December 2021 bound for Antigua, 3,000 miles away. Here he tells FieldHouse Associates how it all began…
Have you ever felt like you’re on a treadmill? That you’ve just got to do something different? Something completely outside your comfort zone? Something real?!
It was the summer of 2019. At the age of 66, and after more than 40 years of being on the business front line advising entrepreneurs and their businesses, I had finally accepted that it was someone else’s turn. I had recently stepped back from my full-time role at Smith & Williamson, reducing my time commitment, working partly from home, and becoming chairman of the firm’s Entrepreneurial Services Group that I had started about ten years earlier.
Having been a founder, investor, director, and driver of various businesses, I always imagined that I’d feel relaxed and content when I could take it a bit easier, work a bit less, reduce my stress levels, and have more quality time to pursue other interests. After all, what could be more perfect than continuing to work alongside a firm and people I admired and liked, but at my own pace? But now that the time had come, it was evident that it wasn’t that easy!
It quickly became apparent that the thought of winding down and segueing into an unstructured and potentially purposeless future was an anathema. Clearly this was not where 40 odd years of hard work and experience should lead to? Surely there must be a better way?!
As a restless and entrepreneurial type (trust me, it’s both an advantage and a disadvantage!), one of my guiding principles has been to challenge everything, rather than go with the flow. Hence my motto – “If it isn’t broken, break it!” For those who may be wondering, this is not some inner destructive streak, but rather a belief that there is always a better way.
And that was the beginning. I realised that I needed to make changes and take proper control of my future, rather than letting it take control of me.
Given my long association with entrepreneurs, I have come to realise that the contribution made by these passionate, determined individuals is fundamental to our collective wellbeing. It therefore figured that I should “stick to my knitting”, building my future around a continuing association with entrepreneurship.
Back in 2011, I had published a book, From Vision to Exit, subtitled as The Entrepreneurs Guide to Building and Selling a Business. In it, I had started to talk about inclusion of the public interest in business decision-making. I also talked about measuring a “triple bottom line” (a phrase coined by John Elkington, the founder of SustainAbility) that includes people and planet, as well as profit.
To cut a long story short, my plans began to develop. I figured that alongside my ongoing role at Smith & Williamson, it should be possible for me to continue to work with some of the entrepreneurial individuals that I admire. It should also be possible to pursue my dream of doing something real to support social entrepreneurship to help change the world for the better.
Quite where the idea for rowing across the Atlantic came from, I’m not sure, but in July 2019, there it was! It probably had something to do with the fact that I have always enjoyed boats and water, and that I’m not the kind of person who could climb Everest or run 40 marathons back to back.
I started to socialise the idea and, no surprises, everyone thought I was mad! That was until I spoke to David Murray, the son of one of my oldest friends, who jumped at the idea.
So here we are in October 2020. We have bought our 24-foot rowing boat, booked ourselves on multiple courses, and started our training for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, departing from the Canaries on a 3,000-mile adventure in December 2021. We hope to make the crossing in around 60 days and, as things currently stand, a successful outcome will give us the record of being the oldest pair ever to row any ocean.
The Entrepreneur Ship will be raising funds for UnLtd, a charity that finds, funds, and supports social entrepreneurs. We are currently seeking like-minded and entrepreneurial corporate sponsors who can see the CSR and other benefits of having their brand colourfully displayed on our boat, as well as frequent mentions in despatches!
For further information, contact Guy Rigby, either through FieldHouse Associates or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.