I’m often asked by those in small business when they should turn their thoughts towards adopting some sort of board structure – and my stock answer is: it’s never too soon.
I intentionally use the words ‘some sort of board structure’ as the SME landscape is a pretty expansive one, dotted with many companies that have succeeded as sole directorships and just as many that have thrived on external skills.
What’s important is that there’s a keen understanding of the divide between strategic and operational needs and the fact that both require focus and attention. And if internal skills don’t allow for this, we need to look outside for these people. Whether they then act in an advisory capacity or are appointed to a more formal board structure doesn’t really matter. What does is that we appreciate the need and are prepared to listen and learn.
My experience is that people of this ilk are smart enough to recognise that they don’t have all the skills and soon surround themselves with really good people, sometimes on an advisory body, sometimes on a more formal board. I like to see it as liberating the company by taking the ‘ME’ out of SME.
Nothing’s quite that simple, though, and the next challenge comes in selecting the right people, with the right skills. All too often I’ve seen small companies assume that you get an accountant here, a lawyer there and you’ve pretty much got your board, you don’t need to look any further.
You do. You need to find the perfect skill set, one that appreciates your current strategic position, understands your five-year vision and adds value to what should be a successful journey.
It may be that you need an accountant, but it may be more specific than that, say one with franchising experience. Then again, it might be that your company wishes to spread geographically, perhaps even offshore – which would make someone with international experience a handy asset!
Of course, even with the right people in place, keeping abreast of governance best practice can be a real headache, especially as respected research tells us that almost 80 per cent of board members, while valuing ongoing training, simply can’t find time for it in their busy schedules.
It’s a scary finding – and one I suspect may be even higher in the SME domain, which is why I believe our most recent offering, Board Minded, will prove to be a major boon for the sector.
If you haven’t heard about it, Board Minded is our new world-first online portal subscription service designed to keep time-poor board members skilled in best practice governance.
Subscribers get a wide selection of online presentations, all delivered by some of the finest minds in the business. They’re then free to watch the presentations as a group or individually, as often as they please and always at a time that’s most convenient.
It’s a great product for SMEs and I look forward to sharing it with you when you’re ready.
Until then, best wishes