Say No to a Board of Clones

For entrepreneurs looking for strategic advice, appointing a mentor as a non-executive director can provide commercial experience, a network of introductions and constructive criticism.

As a sole trader or partnership begins to grow and take on staff, it is good practice to recruit additional expertise in the form of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs). The advantage of having the right NEDs on the board for their experience at low cost must not be lost by ignoring their wisdom during their absence in-between meetings. Regular communication is vital; all senior management, including NEDs, should be involved in all management discussions (verbal or written) and on all management reports.

Appointing a board member with the ability to offer astute commercial introductions is another major benefit.

Say No to a Board of Clones

Additionally, companies which gain the best value from NEDs are those that listen and debate, not those with a strong personality at the top who prefers to be surrounded by ‘Yes’ men and women. All board members and senior staff should be encouraged to ‘challenge the boss’ so that all avenues are explored and the best way forward is determined.

The ‘right’ people are appointed because they have experience of what can work versus what can go wrong, they bring new ideas to the table and, importantly, question the existing strategies to ensure that they are sound.

How to find your NED

In the UK, NEDs have the same legal responsibilities as all board members – there is no legal distinction between a full time executive director and part-time non-executive director.

It sounds cruel but, in many cases, the bored retiree may only be useful for a limited time – however, he or she may be able to introduce you to their successor over time. Networking can open many doors, searching Twitter.com for ‘non exec directors’ displays a good number of results to browse through (plus @nonexecs) and there are specialist recruitment companies, if you need them. You can also contact the Institute of Directors (IoD.com) for advice or use the services of groups such as your local Chamber of Commerce, Branduin.co.uk and, of course, MIERA Consulting.