It’s lonely at the top! Do you wish you had someone to share the burden with you? Someone to help you take a step back, re-align and re-focus? In recent years, there has been an emerging breed of part-time Directors in many different disciplines, e.g. finance, sales, marketing, operations, etc. These individuals offer a very affordable route to a person with the relevant pedigree and skills, knowledge and experience, who can really add value to the SME.
It may be just the contacts the part-time Director has in his/her black book, and the introductions they could make. This could open doors to opportunities that may well have been very difficult, lengthy and time consuming for the SME owner-manager to pursue.
Maybe, it is the technical expertise that they bring: that specialist knowledge that will give the SME a very real tangible edge over their competitors, or it can be the business acumen and commerciality. Often, the SME owner is the entrepreneurial spirit, but needs that sounding board, that second opinion to talk through his/her ideas, see the opportunities and evaluate them.
A part-time Director brings accountability to the business owners, a rigour and discipline to the way the business is run, its systems and its processes. They bring objectivity and challenging questions, ensuring decisions taken by the owners have been fully thought through and alternative options considered. For larger SMEs, they can have a huge effect on boardroom culture and behaviour, along with corporate governance and an influence to moderate overbearing directors who are not running the business for the benefit of the shareholders.
The part-time Director ensures the owners and management team remain focussed on the key deliverables and don’t just drift.
It is about making the business owners take stock of the objectives they are trying to achieve, creating a plan for how to achieve those, then implementing the plan and sticking to it. Yes, new opportunities will arise and external factors may throw up unforeseen challenges – and they all get considered and discussed in relation to the overall plan. How can we take on that new opportunity? What resources will we need? Do we stop doing something else to accommodate the new opportunity? These are all big decisions that need thinking through and discussing. The part-time Director is your sounding board, that individual with whom you can walk through the thought process and the considerations. It isn’t about right and wrong. It’s about choices.
Part-time Directors do tend to be very well connected, but acknowledge, rightly so, that they are not the panacea solution for the business but may just be the route to the solution. They become the trusted advisor, often with a seat on the board or a place on the management team, or just mentoring the owner.
Having an experienced part-time Director in your team adds to the professional image of the business. It shows an intention from the business owners, if they invest in that additional expertise, that they want to achieve things with their business. So, for example, if the business were looking to raise additional finance for a particular project, having a part-time Financial Director on board, who has a good CV, will be of great comfort to the funder and might even be the difference between a yes or no decision. The comfort the funder takes is that the money will be used for what it is intended and the business has good financial controls and systems in place. The business has an individual in the part-time Financial Director who will bring a governance and discipline to the cash management and controls.
The cost of a part-time Director is not expensive. They may only be needed for half a day a month. If they are the right individual, bringing the skills, knowledge and experience that the business owners need – the return on that investment will be huge. Costs may be front-loaded until there is a plan, objectives agreed and processes in place. Then, it settles to a monitoring and mentoring role, ensuring accountability and continuity of focus. The control of the cost sits with the business owners, and the flexibility of an hourly rate and a monthly interface enables that to increase or decrease as the business moves through its natural cycles.
Part-time Directors are acutely aware that time away from the business also carries a cost; the owner’s absence is a cost. However, it is important to come away from the daily tactical decisions of running the business to review the strategy, ask are we still on track or, even, what was the track! Take stock, draw breath, discuss, rant, celebrate, share thoughts with your part-time Director, recharge and go back into battle. It is worth it!
How do you find the right part-time Director? Begin by asking yourself the following: what are we looking for, what do we need?
These are all important questions. The best place to start is by asking what parts of the business do you feel uncomfortable about? What is bugging you? Where do you feel exposed? What it is that keeps you awake at night?
What are the three biggest issues facing your business – how would you feel if they were reduced, managed better or, maybe, removed. That will show the gaps, and a picture of what is needed will start to emerge.
Where do you find these part-time Directors? Look to your contacts and business advisers
you know. Who do they know? Put some discreet feelers out there and see what
the response is. This is like a recruitment and needs to be treated as such. It
is not just the skill-set of the individual that is important; it is also about
the chemistry. There has to be a mutuality of respect and common values. The right alignment will make this appointment
a healthy and worthwhile business investment.
We set PortfolioExec up to fulfil this need for part-time Directors and have now been operating in the North-West for 11 years. Our Specialists are part-time Directors who provide affordable, flexible expertise to SMEs looking to re-focus or expand their business. We can find the right person for you. For more information or for a general chat about how a part-time Director can help you, please contact Anita on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07807 597570.
Author: Ian Theobold, Director of PortfolioExec Ltd, email@example.com