During my career I have experienced many different types of businesses and management structures and find it interesting how these can differ quite significantly from one business to another. I have been fortunate enough, in my role as CEO at Briggs Equipment, to have been in this role with full support from the chairman where needed, but the freedom to make decisions and work freely and independently to bring the business back into the black.
All of this experience and knowledge has led to me to think about an alternative to the traditional set-up in many businesses; which comprises a chairman or non-executive director, overseeing a CEO and his board. I think there is an alternative model which can work really well in some circumstances.
The CEO of a business will be close to it and have management responsibilities whereas a non-exec chairman provides an objective view of the business from an ‘outside’ perspective. However, I believe there is an alternative structure to apply when there is a need to marry these areas, closing the gap between the two – such as in business turnaround.
So whilst the role of the non-executive director/chairman is usually hands-off, in this alternative combination model, the role is redefined advocate a healthy mix of hands-on and hands-off approach.
In this scenario, the non-exec can:
- Provide a sounding board/support mechanism for the CEO
- Be visible to the CEO, but back off when appropriate
- Manage the board, overseeing the bigger picture
- Help develop strategy & direction
- Ensure that the business has a great team
- Ensure that the team has the resources needed to get the job done
- Take responsibility for investor relations
Combining the ‘grey hairs’ experience of the CEO and non-exec in business turnaround can help steady the ship, identify the business blind spot as well as opportunities from the outset, understand what needs fixing and the best solutions, and provide the necessary diplomacy skills to bind the disparate elements of the business together to make it successful once more.