Assembling a successful board

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How to assemble a board that creates added value for the company? Future Board’s Chairman Mari Mäki and Executive Director Lari Raitavuo reply.

Mäki and Raitavuo expect courage from both owners and board members. Finnish board work easily drifts into singing the praises of the company’s founder and avoiding confrontation.

“There is no questioning or challenging involved. Solo acts are deemed inappropriate because the Board makes collective decisions. The concept of a position of trust can also be constricting, if the appointee’s aim is to maintain consensus. This does not, however, always produce the best decisions,” Mäki points out.

“Owners also lack courage. They’re tasked with selecting and dismissing the Board of Directors, so they should make sure the Board is dynamic and effective. A position on the Board shouldn’t be regarded as a permanent job, but rather as contingent work to be contributed as long as the company needs the member’s expertise,” explains Raitavuo.

Raitavuo points out that addressing the varying types of expertise needed in different growth phases is particularly important in growth companies. For this reason, an owner should be nimble in making changes to a board of directors. A company undergoing internationalisation should preferably appoint a board member who represents that market area. If, for instance, the target is India, a person who is familiar with local conditions in that region is needed.

“Board expertise should be regarded as a coherent package. A good board of directors is more than the sum of its parts, and different individuals are needed in different stages of development,” sums up Mäki.

Ingredients for a successful board

1 Diversified composition. The board should encompass sufficient knowhow that is both diversified and a good fit for the company.

2 Safe environment for discussion. A non-threatening environment for discussion that allows challenging and questioning of the status quo should prevail in all board activities. Such questioning should even be encouraged. Working procedures should be creative and interactive, promoting new ways of thinking.

3 Future perspective. A board of directors should focus on looking ahead, not on looking in the rear-view mirror.


Photo: Junnu Lusa

Future Board

What it is: A network of young people (under 40 years old), each of whom is on the board of at least one company generating annual net sales of at least EUR 500,000.

Established: In 2012, in Tampere, Finland. Founder members Tero Luoma, Heikki Väänänen and Tapio Tommila.

Membership: Some 115, domiciled around the country. Women comprise one-quarter.

Operations: Six member-organised events on selected themes each year in collaboration with a varying partner. Visits abroad every year. Also spontaneous pop-up events, reading circles and other activities organised by the members.

Mission: To create and share the board knowhow of the future.

Mari Mäki

Who she is: Chairman of Future Board’s board of directors.

Other info: Gamechanger and Acting Business Director of Ellun Kanat’s Conflict unit specialised in developing organisational culture.

Board positions: Karto Corporation, Putinki Ltd.

Education: Master of Social Sciences, University of Lapland.

Lari Raitavuo

Who he is: Future Board’s Executive Director

Other info: Uusioperhe Group, investment and financing.

Board positions: Helsinking Originals, Ensto Invest Ltd, Erimover, HELT and many growth companies.

Education: Business College Helsinki.


See also: Young members bring a future perspective to board work.