In Inspiring Buckinghamshire

The Heart of Bucks ‘Inspiring Buckinghamshire’ series gives local people from a range of sectors a chance to share their knowledge and insights to help inspire others.

Here we are speaking with Max Hailey, Chief Operating Officer at Calibre Audio.

Tell us about yourself and your connection to Buckinghamshire

I am the Chief Operating Officer for Calibre Audio, a national audiobook charity based in Aylesbury. I am also the Chair of Buckinghamshire College Group and was previously the Managing Director of Mix 96 – Buckinghamshire’s local radio station.

I think I qualify as a local. I grew up in Bucks and my family have been connected with the county for hundreds of years. In fact, one of my relatives, Thomas, was mayor of Wycombe in 1588 and we are part of the Hailey Moreton family of Amersham – owners of the old Wellers Brewery. That might explain why I like a pint!

What personal achievements are you most proud of?

I am really proud that we bought two colleges together (Aylesbury and Amersham & Wycombe) to form Buckinghamshire College Group. This has improved the educational offer across the county and offers a more joined-up approach to the skills needed in Bucks as identified in the industrial strategy.

Running Mix 96 was a personal highlight and taking the radio station to number one in the ratings and winning Sunday Times best company to work for with our parent company was amazing. I was there for the launch for the radio station back in 1994 and rejoined back in 2013 and stayed until last year when it became part of a national radio network.

What are some of the challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?

Managing a business through the start of the pandemic was really tough. People were looking to me for answers and I didn’t have them. Government advice was changing on a daily basis so we just did the best we could. Coupled with the fact we had new owners of Mix 96 and they saw the radio station going in a different direction, I took the opportunity to leave and move back into the charity sector which I love.

I think having a values-based background really helped. If in doubt just be open and honest – it really does work and people appreciate it more.

What is the best advice you have ever received? 

‘It’s not your ability but your availability – I love it but it’s clearly not great if you need to fly a plane or perform a medical procedure! That said it’s more about opening yourself up to new experiences and stepping out of your comfort zone. I didn’t plan to become the Chair of Buckinghamshire college group, but because I believe in the vision and the mission I volunteered and things evolved over time.

‘People before profit’ is another one I really believe in. This was something we really embraced at Mix 96 and it was drilled into me in my early days as Managing Director from our group CEO. At first, I thought he was wrong, but putting it into action and seeing the results changed my mind.

What is your greatest hope for the future for Buckinghamshire?

Writing from a personal perspective, I would like a bigger conversation around the education provision at secondary school level. Everyone in Buckinghamshire deserves the right to a quality education and I increasingly see the 11+ system benefiting the few and not the majority. On the flip side, we have a high proportion of students attending good quality universities but they never return to the county leading us with a drain of talent due to the cost of living. We just need to do things differently.

I am also hopeful that we have a more joined-up way of thinking about Bucks, mainly in part to the unitary council that was formed last year with a single approach for the whole county.