Non-Executive Helicopter view
Ian Wright

Member Article

Stuck behind a wagon?  Invest in a helicopter view!

Miss Sat-Nav is no conversationalist, Simon reflected as he settled in behind a huge multi-axle lorry. True, she’d directed him well enough – she knew where he should go, gave him clear and unambiguous directions - but you couldn’t have a meaningful conversation with her, could you? AND her vision was limited, unable to give you a clue about what lay ahead on this long, narrow, winding road. She couldn’t even tell him if the way was clear, so that he could overtake this chugging behemoth plodding its path in front. No use relying on her, then.

And it was a monster, this creature in front of him, with wide containers like a huge prehistoric rump restricting his view. He glanced at his watch. He’d be late, and a lot depended on what lay ahead.

He’d driven and cajoled the others on the board to support the take-over. Now, for the crucial meeting, he – the CEO - would turn up late and flustered and setting completely the wrong example.

Then he started thinking. It seemed a quiet road at this time of day. Raining, too, which would keep a lot of people off the roads. And his Porsche had tremendous pull.

Continue for eight miles, she said, as if taunting him. Eight miles. At twenty one miles an hour. And he’d another minor road to negotiate after this one, thanks to Miss Sad Nag. Thirty miles to go and thirty minutes to get there.

Do the maths.

He should invent something that could see round corners. A sort of extending camera that flew out to the right, caught the scene ahead and told him if it were safe to overtake or not.

But what the hell? No other car had passed him in the opposite direction for ages. Miles, in fact. He could just pull out and see if the road ahead was clear and hey presto! he’d shoot past the lorrysaurus who wouldn’t see him for dust.

So he made the decision.

He pulled out. Overtake. To the take-over!……

How do we describe the above behaviour? Reckless? Or courageous? Taking a risk? Making an uninformed move?

It makes you go cold if you think of the possible [likely?] consequences.

Now, imagine the exact same scenario, but this time Simon, the Sat-Nav-hating driver, is in radio contact with another woman, one with whom he is able to have a meaningful and profitable conversation.

The helicopter pilot flying above him.

From her vantage point she can see the road for miles ahead, including the white van hurtling along in the opposite direction. Once that has passed, she tells him, the road ahead is clear and safe to proceed, leaving the behemoth in his wake.

He makes his meeting on time, and the take-over goes smoothly, because he was well informed of what lay ahead on that long, narrow and winding road, and he avoided a potential catastrophe.

It doesn’t take a huge leap in imagination to see the similarities between the value of having your very own helicopter pilot guiding you safely along unknown stretches of road, and companies bringing in Non-Executive Directors to provide guidance and warnings about the way ahead.

NEDs can offer that unique helicopter view that is invaluable in keeping the company moving in the right direction, avoiding any obstacles and pitfalls that others on the board can’t see. That isn’t a criticism by any means, but non-execs are brought in because they have a particular perspective that is born of a wide ranging experience that others might not possess.

Not everyone can fly.

You don’t become a helicopter pilot overnight – the Joint Aviation Authorities [JAA] stipulate that you have a minimum of 45 flight hours under your belt [both with instructor guidance and solo], take a series of exams and pass an aviation medical. Not to mention an annual proficiency test!

Similarly, when a non-exec joins the board, he or she brings with them a comparative wealth of experience, working under pressure, unique knowledge, reliability and judgement.

There is one important difference though, between hiring a non-exec and employing your very own helicopter and pilot. A 2006 Eurocopter EC 130-B4 [7-seater] for example, would cost over £1million! A Non-Exec?

Do the maths!

Ian Wright is the CEO of NonExecutiveDirectors.com - the UK’s largest online (free to recruit from) Non-Executive Members’ Network.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ian Wright .

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