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Amazon is a corporate behemoth, the largest Internet retailer in the world based on revenue, selling everything from books to groceries to garage door openers. It’s also an electronic commerce and cloud computing giant, its very success since its founding in 1994 based on remaining ahead of the technological curve. As such, this Seattle-based company is a microcosm of much of today’s corporate world – a business that’s underpinned by technology.

For CEOs, whether they run companies the size of Amazon or just a small start-up, it means they must deal with the rapid pace of change, especially technological change, at the same time as instilling a good governance framework. As a CEO of a start-up, having the right Board mix is as important as building a strong management team. Good CEOs will manage up and down - allowing leadership from the Board to guide the strategic vision and then implementing it via capable management.

For a start-up, let me highlight the key role a board can play in guiding the CEO.

Innovation might take some time to establish a beach-head, but once it does its impact can be as rapid as it is transformational. This is creating a fresh set of demands for CEOs and boards as they are being asked to step outside the traditional prism in which they once viewed their responsibilities and are having to understand that the pace of change is demanding a different approach, both corporate and civic, with the Haynes Royal Commission a curt reminder of what can happen when boards fail to do so.

Certainly, the day of CEOs and boards just making their decisions on what’s happening today is not enough. Nor is it enough to be solely focussed on the bottom line. No, it’s about having a long-term awareness that must extend beyond the immediate corporate demands to embrace the social, political and environmental worlds in which the business operates.

It means there is a need to ask the right questions – and not just regulatory or compliance or risk – that not only improve corporate performance but helps inculcate a culture that improves leadership from the top down. By doing this, diligent boards are giving CEOs a different lens by which to view how they run the business.

Boards need to wary of information overload. In the past, acquiring information of any description could be a huge cost for business. Today, it’s quite the reverse. Information is not only cheap but plentiful. Today, the real questions are: what does the information say and what does it mean? Boards need to know how to sort the wheat from the chaff and CEOs need to rethink their board presentations to ensure good decision-making.

Where good boards can really contribute is in a crisis, be it big or small. And start-ups invariably have them. Alert directors constantly ask questions during a crisis, knowing when to give good management the necessary autonomy to handle it, but also being prepared to step into the breach to help a management that is floundering.

In these situations, good boards never forget they have dual responsibilities: to the company’s owners, the shareholders, to ensure the organization not only survives but remains profitable; and to their public stakeholders, to reassure them organisation will address the issue in an ethical, responsible way.

Indeed, it’s post-crisis that the CEOs and boards can duly reflect on recent events. Could they have anticipated the crisis? Was there the genuine diversity in the boardroom to create that inquisitive mindset that might have foreseen the crisis? How did management respond? Did it have a strategy in place before the crisis erupted? Where there established levels of communication between board and management, and management and shareholders, employees, customers, and stakeholders? The answers will provide an excellent sounding board for the board and management.

Today’s rapidly changing business world is occurring at a time of tougher regulatory scrutiny and growing public cynicism of the corporate world. It means that boards and management must create value, develop long-term strategies, and, most importantly, ensure they have the right leadership framework in place to make the pivotal decisions on which the company’s profitable and ethical survival depends.

A massive thank you to you both for all your assistance from selecting to co-ordinating the speakers for our annual ProLoan conference. Feedback was that this year’s speakers where the best they had EVER heard at ANY event. So this is pretty amazing, because they do go to a lot of sessions like these.

Director of Network Relationships - Proloan (aust) pty ltd

Again this year you and your team have been fantastic and extremely helpful.  In regards to you Sharm, you have been an absolute star and phenomenal help with our speakers and presenters, a great communicator, wealth of knowledge and so prompt with responding and looking at ways to cater to our needs.

Event Manager Fitness Australia

I would recommend, without hesitation, the services of Jane Rowland Smith and Ovations. Jane answered a last minute call to arrange a guest speaker for our principals. Nothing was too much effort, all was arranged within hours, and went very smoothly. The guest speaker was exactly what we required and our brief was followed. Thank you Jane and the team at Ovations.

Executive Director of Schools Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta

All aspects of the process has always gone seamlessly with Ovations and we will continue to seek your assistance for the awards in the coming years.

Thank you again, your help has meant that our Awards are very professional and extremely well received by our members and guests.

Executive Assistant BSCAA NSW Division

Jane, I personally want to thank you for all of your support, advice, patience and all round kindness that you have given me over the last 3 or so years.  This event would not have been as successful without the valuable MC’s you have recommended and the support you provided me when it all just seemed too hard

Shona Dilley – Smart School Awards, Department of Education

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