Building better boards

Simon Telfer wants better boards. Who doesn’t? The difference is, he’s working seriously hard to build them.
One of the founders of Springboard, not-for-profit (NFP) designed to enthuse and mould young talent to become director material, he last month launched an online director dating service called Appoint.
Auckland-based Telfer is strategy and succession planning consultant. His consultancy, Stimulus, encourages enterprises to focus on the importance of governance. “If we want New Zealand to be great place to work and live we need robust, vibrant and ambitious commercial and social enterprises,” he says. “Strong governance, through better boards, is key to making this happen.”
His Appoint website is designed to connect director-hungry organisations, particularly small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and NFPs, with diverse pool of willing governance workers. Businesses pay $495 plus gst and NFPs $245 for every board vacancy listed. Aspiring directors list themselves for free.
Telfer believes in the effectiveness of board diversity. His pool of potential directors reflects the make-up of New Zealand’s increasingly changing community. “And we believe it’s in an organisation’s best interests to be transparent and promote its governance roles to broad pool of potential directors,” he adds.
He launched the site because he needed to help his business clients find directors to establish effective governance programmes. “I was exhausting my personal network and some of my clients didn’t have broad enough contact base.”
What’s wrong with existing director recruitment agencies and the Institute of Directors? “Nothing, but the market is very fragmented,” he says. “We offer more competitive price point that will suit smaller and not-for-profit organisations. We’ll also have more diverse pool of potential directors given the way we market this initiative.” He thinks Appoint will also appeal to organisations of whatever size that are serious about building more balanced board.
Telfer hopes Appoint will help organisations cast their director net more widely. For that reason, he’s against imposing “subjective criteria” on what does or does not make great trustee or director. “It is not up to us to determine that,” he says. “This differs manifestly from organisation to organisation.
“Sometimes experience isn’t relevant, it’s about bringing different way of thinking that is best for board,” he adds. “Minimum requirements is dated way of making governance appointments. It should be more about what backgrounds, skills or ways of thinking do we need at our board table to ensure the strongest possible decisions. If we keep framing governance requirement questions in the same language we will keep getting the same answers. That is not healthy for growing New Zealand.”
www.appointbetterboards.co.nz.

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