How a 'non-exec' can benefit your business

Non-executive directors' open doors, strategise and make companies more dynamic.

A non-executive director, or non-exec as they are often called, usually holds a strategic and political role within a large company. However, nowadays smaller businesses are grasping the fact that having a non-exec onboard can be a valuable asset. A non-exec can become an important source of impartial business advice as well as bring a wealth of experience and contacts to any company, regardless of size. Mark Griffiths, managing director of Aberdeen-based software company Codify, has found their non-exec to be an indispensable asset to the business and highlights the benefits for smaller companies.

Mark says, "Using their vast business experience and personal skills, a non-executive director offers impartial advice from the perspective of someone who is not fully absorbed in the day to day running of the business. A non-exec can inject a higher level of operation to a company and bring a variety of business techniques to a smaller company which are often only used by larger firms."

Codify appointed well known, local business man, Allan Merritt to the board in 2006. Allan was previously managing director of an IT specialist company operating in the oil and gas market in Aberdeen. Mark says, "Allan has experience of starting up and running a successful IT business as well as a wealth of knowledge in the market we operate in. He has provided invaluable advice at a strategic level and we could not have grown as we have over the last two years without him."

"At Codify, we draw on Allan's business experience to further develop and define our strategy to ensure that we remain a dynamic company and achieve our corporate goals. As the voice of experience, Allan has become a mentor and guiding force in terms of business development as well as assisting the Board in making strategic and calculated decisions."

In the capacity of mentor, a non-exec can offer advice and guidance, helping companies to establish procedures, adhere to timescales and mature as a business. Using their business contacts and connections, a non-exec can also provide networking opportunities so senior management can connect with people who can assist with company growth. The specialist help offered by a non-exec can be invaluable during periods of significant company change, for example times of management restructuring, growth or relocation.

"In many aspects of the boardroom, a non-exec can play devil's advocate, identifying potential obstacles and aiding the board to see the bigger picture. Allan has been instrumental in Codify's growth, he has been the catalyst for bringing a more defined structure to how we operate as a business. At times I found working with a non-exec to be challenging. I had been used to making business decisions myself and had to learn to become accountable to the newly formed Board of Directors. But, ultimately it has strengthened the foundations of the business and now I'm seeing the direct results in revenue and growth."

Mark continues, "When companies consider appointing a non-exec, they should look upon it at it as a long term, cost effective source of business consultancy. These esteemed professionals are extremely valuable in that they can offer independent thinking and give direction in relation to business strategy. This extra layer and detachment from everyday routine work allows them time to reflect on opportunities for the future of the business."

Mark concludes with advice on finding the right person for the job, "The right person won't necessarily be on a head-hunters list so it is important to network. Word of mouth can be a good tool in inquiring about someone who may have the time on their hands and the talent to sit on your board. When we appointed Allan we recruited from our own industry and looked for someone with a positive reputation. Other companies may find someone equally as valuable in fields outwith their own, the most important thing is their passion for your business so you should listen to your instincts when choosing a good non-executive director."

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