Tom Clarke-Forrest

Executive MBA

Tom set up Sport 4 Life UK, a leading sport organisation, in 2007. He returned to education to continue his leadership journey and embraced everything that the Executive MBA course, and BCU had to offer. Nowadays, he is applying his new skills and knowledge to his growing charity.

“I founded the organisation Sport 4 Life UK in 2007, after completing my Undergraduate Degree in Leeds. Learning and personal development have always been a key part of the culture and values of the organisation, so after years of training, upskilling and developing in my leadership journey, the opportunity arose to complete a Postgraduate Executive MBA at BCU. It was something I couldn’t pass up, as it worked in alignment with my day job, so I enrolled in 2020 and haven’t looked back.

Naturally, the first year was virtual because of the pandemic, which was challenging as it was a completely new experience to navigate. Throughout that year, the lecturers and fellow students were so supportive of each other. The second year was, thankfully, more in-person, which I thrive on, and therefore more dynamic and collaborative. The positives of the learning and development on the academic side was matched by the advice and support on the student experience side.

The Executive MBA course at BCU is fantastic, and worth doing for senior leaders looking to progress and upskill themselves further. It's hard work and operates on the cutting-edge of management and leadership insights, but the ability to study alongside your existing leadership role is certainly advantageous. If it's the right time in your career, and you have the necessary motivation and commitment, go for it!

Since graduating, I’ve continued in my existing role as Founder and CEO of Sport 4 Life UK, and I’ve tried to implement my key learnings from the course at BCU into this position. The course has made me feel better equipped, with more knowledge and skills to enable me to perform my role to the best of my abilities.

In fact, I was nominated for an award at the 2023 West Midlands Leadership Awards, in the 'Public & Third Sector' category. Hopefully, this was, in part, from implementing some of the learnings from my degree in my leadership role.

No two days are the same in my role, and there’s not really a typical day. As a people-focused organisation, we exist to support other people, we are always ensuring the team are supported, valued and empowered to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. I currently line manage two members of staff, and so these relationships are critical within this.

There is also an ongoing balance between governance and compliance work, to ensure a safe and secure organisation, and strategic work, such as securing investment, managing stakeholders, and developing partnerships. As a growing organisation, I have a great external focus, which includes national growth, networking and thought leadership.

As a Founder, there can be challenges around identity and attachment that require ongoing work, but equally, there are many challenges within leadership too; guiding change, making important decisions, continually motivating and inspiring other teams and individuals, and managing a complex range of important stakeholders. But these are the challenges I enjoy, and I benefit from a supportive and skilled team around me.

I can't control the future, and in many ways I'm not sure what's to come, which is exciting in itself. But what I can control are my thoughts and actions. In the future, I hope I continue to ensure a capacity for personal growth; to approach the unknown with an openness to learn, and to see every day as an opportunity to do more, know more and be more.

This capacity for growth involves acknowledging our ignorance, embracing failure as a necessary precursor to improvement, and accepting our mistakes. It calls for the humility to lean towards our scepticism and not our credulity, and to adjust our behaviour based on the feedback we receive. If I'm still in a leadership role in the future, I hope to continue to be guided by, and listen to, customers, and empower staff to be the best they can be, as well as govern the organisation in a safe and secure way.

My advice to fellow BCU graduates just starting out in their career would be to work hard, be curious and patient, never stop learning, and follow your values and passions.

To me, I AM BCU represents the emotional connection I have with the university, and this journey continues after my studies, as an Alumnus. It’s the university for my city.”

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