The role of the Non-Exec Director in a Small Business

I know there must be some terribly important and stringent things a Non-Exec Director has to do to fulfill the role and function laid out by some act of parliament which has little or no relation to the real world.

To me, that’s all bunkum… yes, bunkum!

(I heard the word used last week in open conversation and resolved to get it in, by hook or by crook, to this week’s blog.)

It’s bunkum because the role of the Non-Exec Director is to hold a mirror up to the executive directors and say: ‘look in there, chaps.  Are you doing everything you should be to make this business successful?’

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Apart from that, you’re thinking, what’s this got to do with me?  I run an EB type business and don’t have Non-Executive Directors.  Well, I strongly suggest you get at least one, preferably two.

Okay, maybe you don’t call them Non-Exec Director and maybe they don’t become a formal part of your business.  But that mirror holding exercise is extremely valuable – or at least we’ve found it so.  We don’t have Non-Execs but we do have friends… sort of.  Every three months we have a meeting with them.  We make the meeting formal and we explain what we’re doing in different aspects of the business, how successful we’ve been and what else we need to do.

We then explain our plans before our two friends become unfriendly for half an hour or so and really challenge us on why we are doing what we’re doing.

The only payment we make to these people who give up a couple of hours every few months is a meal and a beer afterwards.

And it really works for us… it certainly focusses the mind and makes us think about the business and what we’re up to.

I have to say, the rest of this blog probably won’t mean too much to you, but I’d like you to read it anyway.

I got the idea for having our Non-Exec Directors (who aren’t really directors at all) from a man called Tony Jubb.

Tony was a Non-Exec Director with TaxAssist Accountants and fulfilled the role perfectly.  He was a staunch supporter of the business and had been involved since 1995.  Having said that, he wasn’t, apparently, above a bit of fist banging to get his point of view across and I know the Executive Directors valued and respected his opinion always.

I guess I knew Tony for ten years or so, but I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked… and now it’s too late.  Tony died suddenly at the weekend and it’s only now that I realise that I should have sat him down one evening and (with a glass or three of red wine) extracted as much business knowledge from him as I could.

It would have been a long night – he knew a lot.

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