I have been watching with great interest Lord Digby Jones dishing out advice to business executives in The New Troubleshooter on BBC 2.
His views and some of his proposals for improvement were stimulating and challenging – although I am bound to say that I did not agree with some of his ideas.
Lord Jones has had a distinguished career, and he certainly has a great interest in manufacturing, although he has no “hands-on” experience in this field.
However, he did make the unspoken case for small to medium-sized businesses to give consideration to having on their boards a non-executive director or two who can take objective views from a different perspective.
Running small businesses can lead to some cloistered views of the way forward. It is sometimes very difficult to see clearly the way ahead and achieve targets. This is where a non-exec can be very useful. Not working in the business on a daily basis, that person can offer a completely unbiased point of view, suggesting policies that perhaps had not occurred to the main board.
I have had non-executive directors on my board since 1978, and am bound to say that not only do they criticise ideas that you have in mind, but also point the finger in other directions.
But business owners will be saying that this is an additional cost to their company, which in these hard times, they can well do without. They will maintain that they know all about their operation, and an outsider is an unaffordable luxury.
This is where the Digby Joneses of this world have their uses, for they will have had experiences in other industries which can be adapted and passed on, a source of knowledge that CEOs, especially those running a family business, could not hope to acquire.
Finding such people may not be as difficult as you might think, and the cost thereof, much less than possibly anticipated, for many non-execs, with experience, do the work because it keeps their minds functioning, and their monetary reward is a secondary consideration.
Another view is just as important as a great idea.
* Russell Luckock is chairman of pressings firm AE Harris