Often associated with public companies only, the non-executive director (or “NED”) can be invaluable for SMEs. Skilled and experienced business people could easily step in to the role of the NED for such businesses providing objectivity and strategic direction to help them grow.
Most executive directors will be focussed on the day-to-day management of the business and that leaves little time for anything else, let alone mapping out its future direction. A NED can assist by offering strategic advice without being hindered by the minutiae of the inner workings of the business.
One of the most important roles of a NED is to challenge the existing management team on their decisions and to assist in reaching those decisions more quickly. Having someone willing and able to consider matters from a different perspective is invaluable. This can lead to greater corporate governance and improve the success of the business.
If there is a gap in the collective knowledge of the existing directors, rather than employ someone full-time with the relevant experience, with the cost and complexity that brings, it would be worth considering whether a NED could fill that gap. The NED could be called upon where necessary and at Board Meetings to provide guidance and allowing the existing management team expand their knowledge and skills.
NEDs could be particularly useful for new management teams or directors by acting as a mentor or utilising connections of the NED that the business has not yet developed or in a sector in to which the business wishes to expand.
The pool of NEDs in Northern Ireland is not as deep as it could be given the pool of talent. This could be for a combination of factors; perhaps those who have the skills and experience do not realise the value they could have to a business or simply just have not given any thought to being a NED. Whatever the reason, bridging that gap will allow people to come together for the good of Northern Irish business as a whole.
If you are able to demonstrate strong independent leadership, high levels of commercial acumen, an ability to objectively analyse both a business and the external factors that will affect it, strong communication skills and sound judgment – all skills which experienced business people will have developed throughout their careers – you may wish to consider making yourself available as a NED.
The Institute of Directors operates a NED Register where prospective NEDs can offer their services and companies looking for a NED can find potential suitors. As at February 2017, there are 31 NEDs listed and the register can be found here: http://www.iodni.com/the-ned-register
While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.