Congratulations! You’ve been made a Company Director!

JK
For this blog we welcome Mackerel Sky Finance Director, Jeremy Kirk, to share his thoughts on making it to the position of a company director.

“It’s the pinnacle of your career, confirmation that you are at the top of your game. But are there any downsides?

Being a director of a UK company comes with some heavy responsibilities. Under the Companies Acts, directors are personally subject to statutory duties. There are 7 general duties, including, a duty to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members, a duty to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence and a duty to avoid conflicts of interest. One very practical duty is the responsibility of directors to ensure that the company maintains full and accurate accounting records. This is a greater burden than some realise.

Directors may also incur personal liability for their actions (or omission to act). If they consistently mismanage a company or are guilty of wrongful or fraudulent trading, they can be disqualified from acting as a director for up to 15 years. If a company becomes insolvent and the directors knew (or ought to have known) that there was no reasonable possibility that the company could avoid liquidation, the directors may be required to make a personal contribution to the company’s assets. This is also the case where a director is involved with a company operating with the intention of defrauding its creditors. Directors can also be personally liable under health and safety law. Board members have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety matters.

So, if you’re invited to become a director of a company, what should you do? The answer will vary from company to company but here are some essentials:

  • Ask for a description of your new role, with a list of day-to-day responsibilities (if any).
  • Find out about the other directors and the senior management team. Are they up to the job? Where does your role fit into the overall management structure?
  • Obtain an up-to-date business plan, together with present and future budgets.
  • Obtain copies of management accounts for the current and previous financial year. Are they well prepared, informative and produced on a timely basis? What do they tell you about the financial and trading position of the company?
  • Who are the company’s principal shareholders? What influence do they exert on the company? Is it a healthy influence?
  • Obtain copies of minutes of recent Board Meetings (say, the last 6). Are they informative? Are actions clearly highlighted and followed up?
  • Ask for details of any ongoing or potential litigation. What impact is this likely to have on the company’s business and profitability?
  • Find out what insurance policies are in place, including insurance for directors and officers.
  • Ask for a copy of the company’s memorandum and articles of association so that you know what the company is legally empowered to do

This is not an exhaustive list but the information should help you to make an informed decision as to whether to accept the directorship.

Jeremy Kirk is an Associate Director of SouthWestFD, providing growing businesses in the South West with high value financial management support to enhance their profitability.

 

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Challenging or just confusing?

ICEI have a confession…..I really like ice skating. I have loved watching it for years and am happily past the phase where I want to be one. I did try a few times when I was a kid at Plymouth Pavilions but the boots really hurt my feet. I know, a first world problem!

Anyway, I took my mum to the theatre last week to see Robin Cousins’ ICE and even up until the interval I was still trying to maintain the facade that I’m not that fussed. However, I really am that fussed and I am particularly fussed about it when it’s not quite right.

Maybe it’s the dance background or the hours of watching Dancing on Ice in the confines of my own home but the show didn’t quite work.  Don’t get me wrong, the skaters are fantastic and what they achieve in the tiny stage space is phenomenal but the choreography and design and music went through strange phases of really not working. There was a discord between the styles and genres used which sometimes works brilliantly but attempting street dance in a floaty dress is never really going to work.

I wonder if the rest of the audience felt as artistically confused as I was? There were some brilliant moments but it was just missing some kind of consistency, some kind of creative through-line.  It made me think about some of the event projects and programmes that I have designed in the past and made me realise how important the consistency of the overarching strategy is.

When we design a programme it is vital to take into account the needs and wants of the client of course but also the needs and wants of the audience. Programming takes careful consideration and requires a deep understanding of the experience that we are creating parallel to the experience desired by the audience. I am not suggesting that we only ever provide what the audience already know they want.  That would be like just programming tribute acts or high profile children’s shows and excluding the wonderful potential of theatre, dance, circus and music events. We need to create a mix with some comfortable easy sell aspects as well as those that are going to provide a challenge and extend the experience of our audiences.  Who knows they might just like it?

So whilst I am all for juxtaposing artforms and genres to create a new perspective and new experiences, I recognise the need for balance. I need to not be confused. I need to be confident in the experience to relax and experience it rather than trying to figure out what on earth is going on! I need some artistic integrity. And I don’t think I’m that different to most of us.

If you really want to be challenged (but in an entirely consistent and integrated way) try Punch Drunk. They are simply incredible at creating amazing experiences that are both comfortable and challenging.

Friends as colleagues, colleagues as friends

Working with friends can be fraught with danger for any business and yet we spend a lot of time together, often developing friendships within our professional environment.  These professional friendships can be a fantastic source of support and can also create politics within even the smallest business.

I have been (and still am) fortunate to work with a number of friends who are phenomenally talented and it’s a true privilege to collaborate with them.  Equally, I’ve been in situations where work roles and friendships haven’t helped.  It’s always going to be difficult to be the boss and make hard decisions when it involves your friends (even if you think you’ll be friends forever).  When you are working in a high pressure situation, like delivering a large scale event, there is a high level of strain placed on that relationship and sometimes traits emerge that you didn’t expect which can confront one’s perceptions of the other.  It is very difficult to be friend, supporter, manager, director or any other combination all at the same time with many different things needing your attention!

In the last week, we held a gathering for our UK-wide Associates team and I am proud to count every one of those people around the table as my friends. They are also my peers and I thoroughly enjoy working with them, being challenged by them and bashing around ideas with them.  I didn’t know any of them as friends (except one) before we started working together but in each case we have managed to develop a professional friendship that facilitates an effective way of working, as well as being enjoyable.

I think that this professional friendship has emerged because of mutual respect, shared high standards, recognition of the reality of our relationship and a professional approach.  These combined mean that we are able to separate our work persona from ourselves so even if I have been the most annoying person in the work environment, we can still be friends outside the office.  It also means that we seek to resolve our differences immediately and raise issues, problems and concerns as soon as they arise. It’s the festering of hurt, however superficial, that breeds dissatisfaction and creates chasms within the team which means that we just can’t do our job properly and mistakes get made.

So in order to provide the best possible value to our clients, to ensure that the business has a future and to create brilliant events, we have to maintain those professional friendships with balance, pragmatism and acceptance of each individual, whatever their context.  We have to be able to accept the great times with the difficult circumstances and use a hefty chunk of common sense and exercise a lot of forgiveness to ensure that the balance is retained.  In working with my friends, I also recognise the incredible value of my friends outside work (thank you for all the support – you know who you are!).

Being friends and colleagues is great – fulfilling, positive, supportive – but we have to recognise that we are both!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

Inescapable Politics

Sochi-Winter-Olympics-2014-Begins

One of my students on the BA(Hons) Creative Events Management said recently that she really didn’t understand why politics is discussed within the course content and she thought it was a waste of time. Her perspective, thankfully, is not the norm but it made me think about why it really is crucial to making great events work.

If we consider the Sochi Winter Olympics in isolation from the political uprising in the Ukraine, the importance of this mega event as a symbol of modern Russia and its place with the global powers is superficial.  However, given the challenge to Russia’s dominance that the Ukraine uprisings represent, there was a huge amount of pressure on the vast team organising the Sochi Olympics to ensure that it provided a positive counterbalance within the political environment.

If we then consider the influence that the various politicians at local, regional, national and global levels within Russia can exert over the development and operations of the Games, there are yet more compliance challenges and political requirements of the practical aspects. Who needs to sit next to each other? What restrictions are placed on visas and access? Which suppliers are selected? All influenced by the politics of the host nation.

To have the Games taking place at the same time as political unrest in a neighbouring country (which was previously under the Russian regime) has meant that the investment in the Winter Olympics had to generate an even more significant return in a more risky context. There could have been major security issues, political questioning, withdrawal of competing nations, reduced attendance, and withdrawal of funders as a consequence of the Ukrainian uprisings. This is why we have to consider politics in our event design and implementation.

I also learnt today that Britain is obliged by the Budapest Treaty to protect the borders of Ukraine. I wonder if this had been invoked two weeks ago whether we would have been able to compete…..

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

Chin up!

floods

It seems that change is the inevitable constant at the moment but perhaps it was ever thus.

Whether it’s business, or staffing, or clients, or weather, or personal, it all keeps changing. Now, change is not a bad thing; far from it actually! How we deal with change depends on whether we view the world with the half-full or half-empty frame of mind.  A half-empty viewpoint sees change as a negative, off-plan challenge that has to be overcome in order to progress, whereas the half-full perspective perceives change as an opportunity to explore new ways of working, to take advantage of new opportunities and to improve the service and quality of the business.

I am firmly in the latter camp and even when it feels like my whole world is turning upside down and changing, I see it as a means to make things better. I do find big change stressful, like any normal human being and I definitely don’t like conflict, but the more I experience it and the more complex it gets, the more confident I feel about taking advantage of the situation.

Here I have to temper this evangelical positivity with a heavy dose of reality. When the tide rose up to my front door just recently, it was very difficult to see the positives of wet feet and saltwater-sodden cars and that very strange feeling of being isolated by water.  I sympathise with those who have suffered and continue to suffer far more than I, and I appreciate how difficult it is to see the positive in all this.  We have donated to the Flood Fund here in Cornwall as well as donating small animal food to an animal rescue campaign run by our local vets practice.  There are a vast number of animals across the UK, and particularly in Somerset, who are suffering, drowning in mud, stranded by water, with reducing food supplies and I am a massive softie when it comes to humans and animals in need.

It is hard to see how the recent floods and the related personal trauma, travel disruption and sheer destruction are positive but there will (I hope) be something good. Maybe the recent ‘money no object’ statement from David Cameron will lead to the development of much more successful flood defences?  Maybe insurance companies will pay out to support those most affected by the floods?  Maybe it will lead to an increase in business for a company who rescued my home when we had a house fire and who did the most fantastic job at looking after us and our home?  Maybe it will generate a closer, more cohesive community in those areas where people have been through extraordinary situations? And maybe we will be able to see these positives once the floods have receded and the clear up has begun.  In the meantime, we are thinking of all those who are affected by big uncontrollable change – wherever, whatever the change might be.  Chin up brave soldiers!  (As my Grandma used to say to me when I was upset.)

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events