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James Metzger of Simmons Gainsford Resources discusses reasons for, and challenges of finding the right Non-Executive Director to join your organisation, whether large or small.
We are all familiar with the expression – ‘you can’t see the wood for the trees’. When planning the strategic growth for a company, the input of objective guidance from key advisors is a vital asset in steering development in the right direction.
This is where the right top level appointment helps to strengthen performance, brand and growth. It’s not unusual for the larger organisation to appoint an advisor or consultant for this purpose. These generally take the form of the Non-Executive Director.
Finding the right top level candidate
Making such a senior appointment always requires careful planning. Whether it’s a new Managing Director, HR or Finance Director, their input will shape the company’s direction and growth. The wrong fit of candidate to the organisation could be disastrous with negative impact on brand and growth.
At Simmons Gainsford Resources we are regularly sought out by clients to find top-level candidates to join their organisations. It demands a more rigorous and structured search strategy which often means that we are very proactive in suggesting and approaching individuals if we know that they are potentially available, or whether they are seeking an advisory role.
Individuals at the peak of their game may not be considering a career change and are likely to be very valued just where they are. Yet this does not preclude making an approach, as long as it’s the right one and not necessarily a conventional tender of an offer. With these reasons in mind, many companies prefer to engage an external consultancy to manage the search process.
From our experience, it entails extensive research, tapping into a network of referrals and recommendations, having a thorough understanding of the client organisation’s needs, culture and growth aspirations. When this foundation has been established, then on the counter-side, we need to approach and negotiate with a well-researched candidate. And we need to make these approaches with the appropriate motivations on offer. At this stage of proceedings, we have learned that we need to be creative in our approach, armed with the correct data and quite fluid in our negotiations with the potential candidates.
Not every candidate is the same and each will be persuaded by different factors. A good reward package may be a priority; conversely a desire to explore one’s professional diversity through experiences, sectors or locations. Some candidates may want to work for a long established company, others a younger, emerging organisation, maybe even a non-profit. Work-life balance is also a key factor for those people who have attained a certain level in their career; they might want to work less hours in the week.
The incentives will always have to be tailored and as diverse as the candidates’ professional aspirations. Our team is well versed in seeking the correct motivations, having patience and understanding of what it takes to communicate an offer to someone at the peak of their career. It isn’t a process to be rushed, however it is a negotiation that must be undertaken with consideration, discretion and mutual respect for both parties involved. This is especially relevant if the candidate being approached is already employed by a competitor, which is not that unusual. In this instance, prudence is paramount as negotiations could be more delicate.
SMEs – don’t shy away from help
Bringing in a Non-Executive Director does not have to be a tactic applied exclusively by large companies. For those SMEs that are at a crossroads in their growth, where the next large jump is crucial but is unchartered territory for a small team, then it’s time to consider hiring a Non-Executive Director.
You need to ask yourself, ‘What do you want to accomplish for your company?’ By addressing this question, it informs your expectations, what you can offer and the characteristics of the role you’re offering.
For smaller companies, investment in a permanent top-level advisor may be too steep financially. However, this is where investing in a professional recruiter to help you find the right candidate presents a positive solution. For example, they could find you someone who is prepared to work part time, a few days per month. You’d still receive the same quality of expertise, with less financial outlay, appropriate to your company’s resources.
An alternative solution to the permanent choice, is engaging a senior advisor, with all the skills and expertise you need but on a short-term basis. This could be an interim arrangement until you are ready to recruit a permanent post-holder. For some senior managers and directors this is an appealing and refreshing prospect; they are able to share their experience without the commitment of being a staff member and are removed from the internal company politics. They might be attracted by being an ‘external’ coach or mentor for younger staff members, which is a bonus, especially for unseasoned, smaller companies who would benefit most from this contribution.
It is worth considering that due to the value of your new Non-Executive Director’s insight, experience and objective advice, long term growth will be a likely by-product, including increased profitability. It makes hiring a permanent advisor a little easier on the finances. However, do keep in mind that hiring a top level Non -Executive Director offers substantial return on investment as you are getting a wealth of expertise for less than CEO salary.
Perhaps the most important consideration of all is chemistry and this is where we make a lot of effort for our clients. Picking a candidate that fits with the company culture and people, or is open enough to understand and embrace them, makes a significant difference in the success rate of the partnership. This applies not only to what strategic advice is given, but how it is likely to be received. It’s easier to accept the honest and tough critique from someone who understands what goals you are trying to achieve. With mutual interest and respect for each other, an employer and their Non-Executive Director can make, rather than break their company’s future.
If you would like help with finding a Non-Executive Director to join your team, please contact us
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