Seeing around corners. The super powers that non-executives bring to your business

hiring a non executive director

Unless you’ve got special powers, it’s highly likely that you are unable to see around corners!  But wouldn’t that power be a great skill to possess, especially in business?

In today’s business landscape, many of the fastest growing privately owned businesses have found a way to do just this – to look around corners!   How are they doing this?  Well, it’s quite simple if you know how; by hiring experts from their industries – people who have been there and done it.  

These are the people who can help business leaders plot a course and avoid the pitfalls that are common to so many.  They use their benefit of hindsight to do this; looking backwards to plot the safest and most beneficial path forwards.

I’m sometimes asked about the benefits and limitations of advisory boards for company CEOs, and how to get the most from that investment. I tend to give the same advice: A neglected advisory board is like an untended garden. It produces little value.

The same is true of non-executive director appointments; if you hire to “tick a box” then the value is zero.  If done right, bringing in a Non-Executive Director makes others [such as shareholders or investors] regard your company in a new light, and in turn it renders your profile more dynamic and attractive to potential new clients, customers or employees.

A good CEO and Board will also appreciate Non-Executives for the independence they bring to the sometimes contentious issues discussed at board level; that their non-alignment with any faction within the board, and their consequent ability to offer advice that is focused and unfettered, making them an invaluable strategic strength.

“Independence”? “Contentious”? “Faction”? I know, hard to believe, right? I jest!

What’s the takeaway?

In my conversations with other business leaders, there are several take-aways:

First, they benefit from access to advisors who are experts and well-connected in key domains. 

Secondly, non-executives and advisory boards can help select the right people for the business, often using a helicopter view to inform their judgement.

They also say that the right people will change as the platform matures and grows: unlike love, advisors aren’t forever. But there are general rules in selection like: expertise in a high-need domain of the business, enthusiasm for the business and company, reasonable availability, and good chemistry with the CEO and leadership team, and other advisors with whom they’ll interact. 

The best advisors know their value, take advising seriously, and are selective in where they invest their time and expertise. Advisory Boards, like non-executives want a chance to contribute and are unlikely to stay where the advisory board isn’t active, or their participation isn’t regularly sought.

Now back to that blind-bend – keep your eyes on the road!


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