Boards of directors, or BODs, in the typical A/E firm are pretty much a mess. They tend to suffer from the same maladies in so many companies. Some of these include:
- They have too many directors – all of whom are employees and owners in the firm. It’s not uncommon to see BODs that are the size of GMs, and in a 100-person A/E firm. That’s ridiculous. The BOD needs to be a small group of people who are creative and contribute to running the overall enterprise. And diversity is a plus here.
- They don’t have any outside directors and if they do, they’re the wrong ones. “Wrong” is typically your regular outside accountant or attorney. “Right” is experienced leaders from the industry or industries you serve; retired successful CEOs from inside or outside of our industry, and other successful people who know how to run a business.
- They meet too often. Instead of once a quarter for four to six hours, A/E boards often meet monthly for days at a time. Insane! Better to meet less often for a shorter time. The BOD will get more done and be less likely to get seduced into working on stuff that is not within the BOD’s purview.
- They get into the operations. Because they tend to not have any outsiders on the BOD and because they meet so often, inevitably A/E boards get sucked into the mire of the day-to-day details of how to run the firm. Then they don’t do their real BOD duties.
- They devote their agenda to looking in the rearview mirror versus looking out the windshield toward the future. I’m talking about review of performance. It’s a waste of time. Past performance data should go to all before the meeting. As far as past performance goes, the meeting should only be dealing with questions and surprises – not a review.
- The rest of the agenda deals with operations. A poor performing office. Review of salaries for all employees. Review of small purchase decisions. All wrong. The agenda should be dealing with shareholder well-being issues, strategic planning, and looking to the future, as well as unplanned financial crises and policy stuff.
Is it time you took a look at your BOD and retooled it? Make it an asset instead of a necessary evil!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.