Running a business needs a lot of knowledge and hard work. But who actually makes the decisions and who is accountable if things go wrong?
Every company will be run in a slightly unique way, but the majority will have a senior leadership team that makes the key decisions and has ultimate responsibility for how the business performs. In larger companies, this group of people is commonly referred to as the Board.
In order to fulfil its purpose, most Boards will divide the responsibility to lead on certain issues — like finance or legal - between the directors involved.
And these responsibilities are wide-ranging: from approving the strategy, annual budgets, company reports, and health and safety and CSR policies to the oversight of operations and reviewing the performance of the top team. Boards are also responsible for setting out what level of risk the company is willing to take when exploring new opportunities.
Kicking off our Meet the Board series, we interviewed four board members to find out more about what they do:
Along with the CEO, the chair role is one of the most powerful positions on any board. His or her main job is to manage the Board of directors and to make sure that the Board functions properly, as part of this the chair needs to make sure that there is a culture of openness and constructive challenge. A chair will also act as an ambassador for the company.
We spoke to Francesca Brosan, Chair and founder of digital communications agency Omobono about her role what it takes to be a good chair. Read the interview »>
“I think people imagine your entire role is chairing board meetings, but in fact it’s about listening to the sometimes conflicting requirements of the business and trying to give sound counsel about the best way forward” — Fran Brosan
The Chief Executive Officer
The Chief Executive, CEO or Managing Director is the most senior executive in a company and is in charge of managing the affairs of the firm. Similar to the coach of a football club, the CEO will be the main person held responsible for how the company performs.
As part of our Meet the Board series, Great Business Debate interviewed Steve Malkin, CEO of Planet First, provider of sustainability certification The Planet Mark. Steve told us about his day job and CEO and gives advice or aspiring young business leaders. Read the interview »>
“We are a creating a better way of doing business and good CEOs are adding this to their traditional skillsets. They still need to display decisive leadership, trust, competence and understanding of risk management, but now we are demanding more from our CEOs.” – Steve Malkin
The Non–executive director
Non-executive directors (or NEDs!) sit on the board but are not company employees. They attend regular meetings and act as sounding board and oversee the actions of the company. Having someone on the board who doesn’t have executive responsibilities offers independence and constructive challenge. This means non-execs can help address ‘big picture’ challenges and opportunities that might be hard to focus on for the executives who are busy running the business on a daily basis.
We spoke to Philip Scott, who explained what he does as a non-executive director at drinks company Diageo and offers his advice to aspiring young business leaders. Read the interview »>
“Just be yourself: don’t try to be someone else. Develop your own skills so that you can add value to the company you work for, but always be true to yourself.” — Philip Scott
The Company Secretary
The company secretary’s role is to make sure that the business does things in the ‘right’ way – this means complying with all the relevant rules and laws, but also making sure the business behaves in an ethical way. He or she should be independent minded and should speak out against bad or unethical practice.
We spoke to Jonathan Jowett, Company Secretary & General Counsel, of the bakers Greggs, who told us about the best bits of working as Company Secretary for Greggs and about some of the challenges of his role. Read the interview »>
“[The] challenge is to ensure that we all know the legal rules that apply to our business, but then to incorporate them into words and actions that allow our shop and bakery teams to set about doing what they do best – serving customers.” — Jonathan Jowett