My journey Paul Bolton CDir of Salford Professional Development

Paul Bolton is the managing director of ONECPD, part of Salford Professional Development, which Paul established with two colleagues in 2012. He joined the IoD in 2015 and became a chartered director in 2017.

Read on to find out how professional training and the IoD’s flagship qualification have shaped his career and helped him overcome challenges as a director.


After graduating from university I trained as a teacher, but I soon realised my aspiration for a more commercially-focused career. During a retail graduate training programme and subsequent roles in HR and sales, I gained valuable skills in people management, customer service, sales and marketing.

My specialisation in conferences and events developed from selling conference packages and delegate tickets, and I also established a network of industry contacts and gained digital marketing skills.

There were just three of us at ONECPD when we launched the business and we focused on producing great products for our customers to drive income.

Today we have the same core mission but we have diversified our portfolio and, with annual revenues of over £5m, I am proud to lead a team of 60 dedicated and passionate staff.

Why I undertook the CDir programme

I joined the IoD in 2015 to connect with business leaders. The Certificate and Diploma in Company Direction presented an ideal way to gain formalised training in leadership, management and strategy, as it could be completed while continuing my full-time commitment to ONECPD.

I was attracted by how the courses were structured and built a core foundation of knowledge and skills which I have subsequently applied to real-life situations. Making the final step to become a chartered director was a natural progression, essentially requiring me to build a portfolio of my experiences as a director and discuss these with an IoD interview panel.

Although this sounds daunting, it was actually a very helpful process, as I was able to reflect on my experiences and how I had overcome challenges as a director. The interview panel put me at ease and seemed really interested in my experiences.

How the CDir programme has helped me

The programme has been a great help and I routinely apply the knowledge, skills and insights I have gained from it. From the use of financial and operational tools to analysing performance across the business, from articulating our strategic vision to building relationships with internal and external stakeholders, the course helped me to understand more fully the responsibilities of a director and senior leader.

It has also proved invaluable in equipping me with that strategic planning skills that will enable me to deliver further sustainable growth in our business.

I was able to network with other strong leaders, and that has helped me, because I have been able to use some of them as a sounding board and others as a knowledge bank.

It has also led to some great friendships.

I found the Role of the Director and the Board a particularly interesting module of the certificate programme, as it really articulated the responsibilities of directors, especially from a legal point of view. I doubt most directors are actually aware of what they are liable for, and I believe there should be some sort of mandatory training for directors such as this when they join a board.

The importance of the CDir qualification

It is a kite mark, recognising and giving credence to directors who are passionate about ensuring the highest business standards in terms of knowledge, skills and, arguably most importantly, values and beliefs. The IoD is an important institution striving to raise standards and diversity in boardrooms across the country. This will ensure businesses in the UK are able to compete on a global scale, which is good for us all.

Paul Bolton is the managing director of ONECPD, which runs events and conferences, continuing professional development courses and bespoke and in-house training for the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

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