Governance for startups

Taking a startup to the next level requires support. Many early stage startups get value from mentors and an informal Advisory Board to use as a sounding board. However, it’s never too early to begin planning for growth.

Corporate governance is the framework that enables a company to scale by addressing the vested interests of various stakeholders including shareholders, employees and customers. Strong corporate governance practices provide a foundation for a company culture built on high standards of integrity, accountability, transparency, fairness, and responsibility. 

The four pillars of governance are:

  1. Determining purpose
  2. An effective governance culture
  3. Holding to account
  4. Effective compliance

Bringing in a professional culture of governance at an early stage provides good discipline; it also shows investors that you are serious about taking your company to the next level.

Board selection

Diversity of thought is essential – aim to assemble a diverse board consisting of directors with varied skill sets and experience well matched to your company’s growth plans. Look for deep domain expertise, experience in related industries and customers, and an outside perspective through appointing an independent director.

I had the pleasure of working alongside Elle Archer last year with GovHack and on a Smart Cities Council panel. An experienced board member, Elle’s unification kaupapa is kotahitanga: “my ‘why’ is to unify. If nobody is engaged with the vision, you’ll all go in different directions.” A champion for progressive governance, Elle considers herself to be a national and regional weaver with a portfolio of experience to draw from including economic development, education, infrastructure, emergency management and technology.

As Elle says, “taking time to set your strategy in alignment with your goals is the way to get to the top of your maunga (mountain). It’s essential to engage stakeholders with your vision. Be on the awa (river) in your waka (canoe) and ensure you have communicated your vision clearly to enable all to move forward, united.”

Startup founders are generally focussed on operational activities at the beginning, effectively “wearing all the hats”. Working IN your business is operational; working ON your business is strategic and important for establishing strong governance practices.

Start building your governance capabilities – it’s never too soon to begin.