LFP149 – Discussing “The Realpolitik Of The Unlisted Company Board” w/Guest Host Dan Kiernan

Today the LFP has Dan Kiernan as guest host and instead I am in the guest seat to discuss my long in the making recently released book on the Unlisted Board The Realpolitik Of The Unlisted Company Board – Making Your Board An Engine Of Growth. This is a behind the scenes account based on interviews with some 80 SmallCo Boarders – mostly founders but including Chairmen, NEDs, VCs, Angels and other SmallCo Boarding surround.

Done well the Board can turbocharge the SmallCo’s success – done badly it can end up in company failure or the sacking of the founder who created the company in the first place.

Company Boards are a mysterious and remote thing for most people – only a tiny percentage of any company serves on the topmost, legal Board. If you are in MegaCo they will generally be so remote as to be irrelevant to your day job. Even in a SmallCo you may know little of what they do other than matters such as signing off on fund raisings, certain large expenditures et al. You will have read about the obsession of recent decades Corporate Governance and think that Boards are just paper pushing.

However no matter how inexperienced and naive all founders sooner or later find out that it is the Board that governs the Company not the founder. For some time the founder might have voting control on the Board but as bigger and bigger raises come and go the founders control slips away which creates a whole new dynamic.

In this show we discuss the background leading to the book, the motivation and some key takeaways as well as the thing that serial entrepreneurs know about the Board that the first time founder does not. Topics discussed on the show include:

  • how attitudes to the past change as one gets older
  • when I started university was nearer to the second world war than it is to today
  • the advantage of growing up in the 60s compared to today
  • business models that sell fear vs those back in the day that sold love and peace
  • my career journey
  • how major changes in life, and in one’s life, are generally unanticipatable
  • the role of fate and chance
  • the genesis of the Board project lying in happening to find that founders had some very different ideas of the role of the Board in a SmallCo
  • the amazement at the near-immediate responses to the first two batches of emails to super-busy key founders asking for their input on what the Board is for
  • the huge emotional stresses of being a founder and a need to spin things well even if you haven’t slept all night tossing and turning with worry
  • “I haven’t come across one successful founder who I regard as negative”
  • the huge pent-up emotions of founders around their challenges
  • the misconception of the naive that the Board is a logical thing rather than at times a cauldron of emotions, desires and conflicting objectives
  • two sides to the Board coin – the legal side (which is over-emphasised) and the creative side where one is attempting to build a strong company – legals are essential but nothing to do with how you are going to create something new
  • serial entrepreneurs approach the Board in a completely different way from the first-time founder – why?
  • “Founders are amateur Board attendees – their VCs and NEDs are professional Board attendees”
  • the importance of understanding the founder-centric view of the world
  • those who don’t know, don’t know what they don’t know can apply to all too many first-time founders
  • “Done well the Board can be an engine of growth”
  • The Board as a huge opportunity to bring expertise into the company that will never work for you
  • What good Board members do for the founder personally and corporately
  • How do you know how good anything can be in life?
  • Board practice varies from country to country but the same dynamics of human relationships in this context are generic
  • the book as a car manual which can be dipped into as well as read cover-to-cover – chapters eg on the founder, the Chairman, NEDs, capital providers, fixing broken boards
  • Cadbury who changed Corporate Governance forever in 1992 completely misunderstood how governance had worked in the past when it worked much better. The contextual two chapters in the book cover how companies were governed from the 16th-21stC
  • “If you need a map of the SmallCo Board territory this is the most honest map you can get”
  • radical perspectives on Board matters
  • Are you getting the very best you can from your Board?
  • The Company per se is losing its way – consequences
  • healthy companies are totally essential to the economy in all countries these days – super-important to get it right – how Corporate Governance is threatening this
  • the impact of neoliberalism, state do-goodism and wokeism with companies kind-of footballs in the middle
  • the great thing about SmallCos is that, even if modest ways, they are focused on trying to do some good in the world

And much much more 🙂

Share and enjoy!