Accessing the Right Strategic Advice at Board Level

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

Panel event Christchurch: Aug 22

We recently hosted a well attended panel event for the Canterbury Institute of Directors which included a mix of experienced directors with diverse & extensive governance experience.

Directors are mandated to work in the best interests of a company and to ensure (among other things) the entity is purposeful, successful, compliant, safe and future focussed. Inherent with this is the challenge of successfully navigating growth pains and the uncertainty of executing new or innovative strategic initiatives. As a company evolves and grows it will need access to different advice at various times in order to mitigate risk or to manage/navigate complexity. 

The 10 key insights outlined by the panel included;

  1. Whilst there is real value in long term advisers who deeply know the business, a company can outgrow existing advisers for a variety of reasons. A key indication can be where they no longer really challenge ideas nor present alternate solutions/insights.
  2. Many new advisers will be introduced via the network of independent directors and certainly referral is the most common approach. That said a board should not discount going to the market and seeking advice from outside an immediate network.
  3. Advisers can support board sub-committee initiatives/projects and join a board for select agenda items. This adds real value and expertise whilst also changing the conversation.
  4. It takes courage for a company founder to form a board and to then seek advice on a regular basis. Those that do tend to get business break throughs and lift the growth trajectory of the business.
  5. Specialist advisers can address sensitive topics in an un-emotive way backed up by data and examples which allows the topic to be explored in different ways. Clever/experienced leaders often need to be gently reminded of the options to ensure the best decision for the organisation is made.
  6. It is important to note that Advisers cannot resolve all the issues a business faces. Sometimes there is real value in the organisation working through challenging topics and reaching the solution internally.
  7. There are times a long term adviser might be conflicted ie where they advise shareholders/family trusts. As a company grows a board can feel the need to seek independent/unencumbered advice for the directors.
  8. As advisers are engaged they should fit the business culture, understand the business and earn the trust of the board. There are times it is more appropriate for advisers to be engaged/retained by the board vs by the CEO/management team.
  9. Candid discussions are often required to add real value whereby an adviser challenges ideas and is prepared to push back on status quo thinking to ensure new ideas are explored fully. Those who can “straight talk” often make a real impact.
  10. Every board and company situation is quite different and a mix of technical expertise, judgement and EQ skills are essential for a skilled adviser.

Without a doubt there is real value in accessing the right advice at the right time to actively contribute to key break throughs or important decisions. Some advice can be quite transactional, project based or specialist whilst other advisers may need to work alongside the company longer term complementing the board of directors.

Regardless of the type of advice or length of engagement this is an effective way to inform key decisions or to maintain momentum or speed of execution.

The future of Governance

Governance is an important component of any business. All companies have directors but not all place an emphasis on its importance nor the value it can add. It is a key part of succession (allowing owners the transition or sell), accessing external funding, maximising value to shareholders and reduces business risk as the organisation navigates change or challenge. On top of that it supports talented CEO’s to thrive and reach their potential.

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