5 benefits of exercising sound governance in a crisis

How is a company’s good governance related to resilience? In these unpredictable times, you’re no doubt investing considerable time and energy in keeping your business afloat and moving it forward. Your network of advisors or your board of directors (BoD) can help you chart the right course through choppy waters. Here are 5 main benefits of exercising (or adopting) sound governance practices in the current crisis, according to Éric Veilleux, Senior Investment Manager, and Isabelle Gagnon, SME Governance Manager, at Desjardins Capital.

1. You have allies you can count on

If you’re in business, you probably already have valuable allies you can discuss important business management matters with. Whether they take the form of a management committee, a mentor, trusted family members, an advisory committee or a BoD, it’s well worth your while to keep them even closer.

Some business owners have a negative perception of BoDs. Certain stubborn prejudices persist, including the reputation for being cumbersome, even meddling. While your BoD has compliance, reporting and risk management responsibilities, it’s also meant to generate value creation for your business. During a crisis, you should work even more closely with your advisory committee or BoD. The more transparent your communications are, the more your advisory committee or BoD can support you.

“What’s important is maintaining a strong relationship with your allies.”

At the height of the crisis, some business owners even increased the frequency of their BoD meetings to once a week! If your company doesn’t have a formal governance structure, continue to rely on your usual partners and be sure to share any challenges with them to get diverse perspectives.

2. Maintain focus in the heat of the moment

When there’s a crisis, it’s natural to start by putting out fires and reacting to nasty surprises. Take the time to talk to your advisory committee or BoD to make sure your organization can absorb the repercussions.

“Besides the profitability of your operations, one of the most important things to watch out for is the state of your human resources.”

In the wake of recent months, you might have had to let key players go. These kinds of changes often affect staff morale, and it’s hard to get an accurate picture of how motivated employees are when you’re interacting virtually.

Your BoD plays an essential role in guiding you in these kinds of decisions. Put their expertise to use to develop a plan that will allow you to re-focus your business on fundamental objectives and maintain your human resources. Once you’ve identified specific problems to solve, your BoD will help you determine the indicators you need to closely monitor, and those to add to the dashboard. Good governance buffers against uncertainty.

3. Recover your long-term vision

The pandemic has generated growth for some businesses and reduced operations for others. If you find yourself in the latter group, the business’s DNA should be your main concern. It’s no easy feat to maintain operations when a crisis hits. How do you find meaning in this crisis? What are the impacts on your company’s business model and operations? Your advisory committee or BoD has a key role to play in helping you project further into the future.

The board might even help you better anticipate a crisis. If we take February 2020 as an example, we can see that businesses that had directors who were aware of what was happening in Asia and Europe were able to anticipate and adjust their practices and strategies before the market took a huge hit.

More generally, a BoD shares your company’s fundamental values and is guided by clear principles already established with you. In other words, its vision of the organization’s future should be aligned with yours. Even if you follow your contingency plan to the letter, the situation is changing so quickly that it’s worth turning to your BoD to take a step back. It’s an opportunity to reaffirm your vision and together establish a crisis management plan that will ultimately help you take your business in the direction you’ve chosen.

4. Explore new solutions

Despite everything, do you find yourself dealing with new organizational, financial and people challenges? Join forces with your BoD. If you’re in a situation where you have to make the difficult decision to let staff or partners go, for example, you could turn to your advisors or members of your BoD to find the best possible solution.

Or, you might be dealing with a talent attraction or retention issue. In that case, your directors can put their specific expertise and networks to work to advise you on how to implement creative retention/attraction strategies.

In the last few months, we’ve seen many inspiring cases of collaboration between business leaders and their BoDs. The restaurant sector, which has been hard hit, has some great examples of innovation. One business owner who had to close the doors of all his restaurants was able to pivot his operations, with the support of his external advisors. He set up a boxed-lunch catering service, designed specifically for teleconference participants. Thanks to this creative solution, his chain was able to generate revenue and keep staff on even in these hard times.

5. Make informed decisions

As a business owner or member of a management team, it’s what you do every day, many times a day. However, given the current cloudy climate, how do you see through the fog to be confident you’re making the right decisions? Is it a good idea to expand into a new, promising sector? To seize the opportunity to acquire a competitor weakened by the current economic situation? Should you look for new forms of support to drive your latest innovation? How can you exercise leadership that allows you to retain top talent? How do you communicate effectively to support employee morale in the middle of a pandemic?

You could reduce worries and concerns by developing the habit of asking your trusted partners or BoD for their advice on how to handle certain challenges. By maintaining close, transparent relationships, you’ll maintain the assurance and confidence you need to manage your business.

In conclusion, your network is there to support you and your management team. In unpredictable times, close relationships with your BoD or advisory committee can help you pursue your main objectives and stay the course. Exercising sound governance, even in a crisis, gives you the best chance of overcoming the next challenge, and every other one to come.

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