As an entrepreneur’s business grows, so do the demands on their time, including far more time spent in board meetings. eShare’s Camilla Braithwaite looks at how companies can have smarter board meetings, making better use of time and improving governance and transparency.
As a business gets bigger, so the demands on a founders’ time get greater. They get pulled in many different directions and whereas once decisions could be made by one or two people over a coffee, on the train or indeed any time that inspiration struck, once the business has scaled this is no longer possible.
With a larger and more established business there are more board members, each with their own specific remit but also with a strong opinion on other business functions. Some of the board might be external, either an investor in the company or a non-executive director from elsewhere. Not only are there more board meetings, but they take longer than they previously did, and they all have to be structured, prepared for and managed more professionally.
eShare research earlier in 2018 examined the cost of unnecessary and inefficient meetings and found that the average office worker spent almost one day attending and preparing for unnecessary meetings every week. The average staff cost to each organisation was more than £35,000 a year and given that board members’ time is costlier it makes absolute sense to address board meetings as a priority.
Embrace digitisation of meetings
A major part of the problem is that meetings (and board meetings especially) are an element of business that haven’t seen as much modernisation as they could have. Board meetings still follow mostly the same processes and procedures they did decades ago and making them more efficient can have a major impact on a growing business.
Most issues with board meetings can be addressed by embracing more fully the new technologies that are available. Preparation for board meetings can be lengthy, in terms of reading all the relevant materials and feeling informed enough to contribute fully in the meeting. But board members don’t need or want to carry around huge reams of paper to read through, so why shouldn’t all meeting materials be accessible via tablet or smartphone?
This makes it much easier for board members to read materials in advance, doing so during travel downtime and when it is more generally convenient. People can also make amends and annotations while on the move. Furthermore, this is also a big win for support staff - printing out agendas and meeting materials is not only costly, but it takes valuable time to prepare and print everything.
Easier collaboration, improved governance
During the meeting itself, online meeting tools (known as online board portals) allow board members to collaborate and annotate documents more easily. Actions can be easily agreed and captured so they don’t have to rely on someone’s faulty memory to refer to what was discussed. This means board members can benefit from the improvement in information flow that aids decision-making, as well as better collaboration and a smoother overall meeting process.
Using online board portals also provides a vast improvement of data security at a senior level. Board members have greater access to all of the information they need in a highly secure manner. The best board portals on the market will host data in secure data centres, ideally with the ISO27001 security certificate. There is no danger of leaving confidential materials on a train or hotel reception, because if a phone or tablet is misplaced it can be locked remotely almost immediately.
As organisations get bigger there often comes with that growth, a need for greater governance, and a more digital approach to board meetings will improve transparency and governance. Online board portals help embed governance into a firm’s leadership and its meeting and decision-making processes, demonstrating clearly who said what in a meeting and providing insight into how certain decisions were reached.
Just because board meetings have always been approached in a certain way, that does not mean that they should continue to be approached in that same way. As firms expand, it becomes ever more important to make the most effective use of board members’ time.
Making board meetings more digital will not only free up senior executive time that can be spent elsewhere, but it will also improve governance and security at a board level. Board meetings are long overdue to be digitised and doing so will provide countless benefits to growing businesses.
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