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Now is the right time to appoint a Non-Executive Director

Crowe Clark Whitehill

Crowe Clark Whitehill

Businesses are switching strategies from survival to growth as the economy improves. Darren Rigden, Partner at Crowe Clark Whitehill, the national audit, tax and advisory firm with offices in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, says companies could benefit from appointing a Non-Executive Director (NED).

With many business owners stretched, adding a permanent full-time heavy hitter to the management team might be considered an extravagance, preferring to invest in production. However, having access to the skills of an experienced NED, while keeping the costs under close control, is proving increasingly attractive to many SMEs.

The role of a NED is no longer purely a governance role. Today, their role is much more about strategy and advising the company, and no longer limited to listed companies and larger businesses.

The qualities required of a good Non-Executive Director (NED) vary according to the organisation’s needs, but there are a number of key attributes essential for a NED to prove invaluable as a member of a management team.

Depth and breadth of experience

The ideal NED should have a broad range of experience gained in a diverse range of sectors, bringing a fresh perspective, but with sound business foundations. A NED who has a strong background in the organisation’s own industry can often provide both knowledge and wisdom, as well as contacts, which can be priceless.

Sound judgement

Knowledge and experience alone are valuable, but the good NED uses them to influence, persuade, and challenge, as well as demonstrate their astuteness and good judgement.

The NED needs to be a good observer and listener, a robust yet courteous debater, and someone able to stand up to an invariably formidable Chairman or owner. They need strong judgement skills to accurately balance risk with responsibility, good governance, a sense of commerciality and proportionality – all of which ensure a NED will serve the organisation effectively. 

Strategic outlook

NEDs must understand the duties and requirements of governance of the position – the legal roles and responsibilities – as well as the organisation’s commercial drivers and strategy.

A grasp of the big picture allows a good NED to support a Board with a strategic viewpoint, and to offer advice and question decisions both in meetings and at any time throughout the year. A NED should act as a sounding board, providing advice and constructive criticism throughout the period of their appointment.

Credibility

A well-connected NED can also help strengthen relations, introduce the business to potential customers, suppliers and best professional advisors, as well as possibly access to finance.

Avoid making a trophy appointment. No matter how well known the individual is, if they are simply looking for a hobby, they should be avoided.

As is often the case, quiet worth is far more valuable than glitter. Executive directors working in other businesses, or involved in international business issues during their day job are equally as valuable as a seasoned NED. 

Change

As a company continues to navigate change and challenges, the role of the NED will also need to change too. This can only be achieved through a well-rounded and dynamic NED. 

If you can find a NED with all these skills and personal attributes, a management team and the business can become better focused on growth, and better placed to deliver it.

Darren Ridgen can be contacted at Crowe Clark Whitehill on 01622 676767 or Darren.Rigden@crowecw.co.uk

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