19th May 2011

Over the years I have had the privilege, honour and sometimes curse (!) of sitting on a number of public/private Boards and committees. My thoughts go out to all those who have recently chosen to sit on the Boards of the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). From my experience I would like to offer a few words of encouragement and warning designed to help each LEP achieve its aims and objectives.

These thoughts are in no order of importance and purely reflect my own experiences:

– Set out your aims and objectives straight away
– Be clear as to what you can and cannot achieve – do not try to be “all things to all men”
– Do a few things well rather than many things badly
– You are not a council committee so do not behave like one!
– In setting up your constitution remain faithful to the simple premise of “one person one vote” and ensure that there is a private sector majority of members
– In no circumstances agree to a constitution which gives public sector “founder members” the right to overturn a majority vote
– Run the meetings just like a private sector Board – tight, focussed and make decisions rather than procrastinate
– The public sector has an important role to play so make use of the knowledge held and do not set out to duplicate functions
– If other quasi organisations are “backed into” a LEP as an executive or similar do not just accept that it is fit for purpose. Start a full review and if necessary reappoint or renew.
– Have a simple informative website but do not spend silly money on it
– Insist on a 75% rolling attendance rate from all members or they are voted off
– Public sector members are generaly appointees and as such there may be a rapid churn due to elections, reshuffles etc. Where possible gain commitment for continuity or decisions will stall
– Ensure that everyone around the table has authority to vote on all matters i.e. no deferring to gain cabinet/member etc approval
– If the public sector funds the executive it is reasonable for them to request some ground rules. Agree them at the outset to avoid misunderstanding later.
– You are local ENTERPRISE partnerships – so address Enterprise and do not get sidetracked on peripheral matters
– Do not get sucked in to publicity campaigns unless they are integral to the core aims or you get tainted and alienate a wide cross section of the community
– Be sensitive to political situations but make the right decision not the politically expedient one
– Be open and transparent to avoid conspiracy theories – publish all Board minutes on the website etc
– Be bold – no-one remembers people who do not make a difference
– Think about who needs your help most – large corporates or pre start businesses – do not get sucked into the “glamour” of association with big names
– Think carefully about what you want the executive to do – keep it small and tight
– Do not directly deliver ANYTHING – enable others to do this

And finally before you make any decisions just ask yourself what your answer will be when your 8 year old grandson asks exeactly what did you achieve on the LEP?!

I wish everyone the best of luck and great success in achieving all that you set out to do – your country needs you!

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