The business case for external advisors and a Board of Directors
We have a strong entrepreneurial culture in SMEs and Family businesses in this part of the world but what we see is that the control of the business resides within one or at most two people.
Those with an entrepreneurial mindset often make it on their own despite the odds and in many instances when success comes in this way often prevents leaders from appreciating the value of a Board and how a board can effectively support the business.
Why fix it if its not broken – I’ve done this on my own – my way – why do I need external advisors or a Board?
Management structures and control systems are key to survival and sustaining a business in the over the longer term. This is especially true in a challenging economic environment where there may be unforeseen risks and tough decisions to be made as a result.
Entrepreneurs are very passionate about what they do but sometimes it helps to have someone who can take an rational and realistic view on the state of health of the business.
Independent advisors, such as lawyers and accountants/ auditors can provide this support and a ensure that there is a proper controls environment to protect the business from potential external threats.
In addition no matter how talented we are how skilled we are, running a business is not for the faint of heart, it is stressful and as a result can take physical and mental toll on well being….
In our previous blog I mentioned the roles and responsibilities of Directors and a Board. The difference between external advisors and Directors is that as Directors the will have more of an internal view of the business and they have a legal responsibility to do and make decisions that are in the best interest of the company.
There is a perception that some entrepreneurs at times that having external advisors or a Board of Directors can be costly and slow down decision making and lose agility. And perhaps more seriously, in a small society and a highly competitive business environment some entrepreneurs may find it difficult to trust others with highly sensitive commercial information.
However I would offer the following based on the growth success stories that I have seen in the Energy Services sector.
In the Energy services sector as an example the opportunities presented in the region such as Guyana and Surinam for Trinidad Companies which are looking perhaps to expand over there.
Understanding the opportunity, who the stakeholders are and making decisions on the timing on investments to support these opportunities have been some of the issues that service companies have faced.
It’s been along and slow process but some service companies that have expanded with some level of success have had the benefit of clear strategic oversight of Board of Directors and partnered with Stakeholders including advisors, financiers and investors.
A Board compliment does not have to be a large number – it needs to fit the needs of the business
Board Directors can be valuable assets in growing business through their networks and add value to the business. The governance framework and the delegation of authority of the business can address the concern of slow decision making and the appropriate level of autonomy be retained by the entrepreneur.
Once there is alignment and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities Directors can be powerful allies and advocates. In many instances the pros outweigh the cons.
It’s often a matter of going from Control ( singular) to Oversight and Controls (plural) in order to protect the business and give accurate assurance on it’s current state of health and prospects for growth and long term sustainability.