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Appointing Non-Family To The Board: The Risks & The Rewards

Family businesses often face unique challenges and opportunities compared to their non-family counterparts. One such challenge is the decision of whether to invite non-family members to join the Board of Directors.

While this move can bring valuable expertise and fresh perspectives, it also carries inherent risks that must be carefully weighed. In this article, we'll explore both the risks and rewards associated with inviting non-family members onto the board of a family business.

The Risks:

  1. Cultural Misalignment: Non-family directors may not fully understand or appreciate the unique culture, values, and dynamics of the family business. This can lead to friction or misunderstandings, undermining cohesion within the board and the broader organisation.

  2. Lack of Commitment: Unlike family members who have a personal stake in the business, non-family directors may not be as emotionally invested or committed to its long-term success. They may view their role purely as a professional obligation rather than a personal mission.

  3. Confidentiality Concerns: Family businesses often deal with sensitive information, such as succession plans, financial performance, and family dynamics. There is a risk that non-family directors may not treat this information with the same level of discretion as family members, leading to breaches of confidentiality.

  4. Resistance to Change: Introducing outsiders into a close-knit family business can meet resistance from existing family members who are comfortable with the status quo. Non-family directors may encounter pushback when advocating for changes or challenging traditional ways of doing things.

  5. Cultural Clash: The culture of a family business can be vastly different from that of a corporate environment. Non-family directors may struggle to adapt to the informal communication styles, decision-making processes, and familial relationships that characterise many family businesses.

The Rewards:

  1. Diverse Expertise: Non-family members can bring a diverse range of expertise and experience to the boardroom. Their perspectives may span different industries, markets, and functional areas, offering valuable insights that complement the knowledge of family members.

  2. Objective Decision-Making: Family dynamics can sometimes cloud judgment or lead to conflicts of interest. Non-family directors can offer unbiased viewpoints and help ensure that decisions are made in the best interest of the business rather than personal agendas.

  3. Professional Governance: Having non-family members on the board can enhance the professionalism and governance of the business. They may introduce best practices in areas such as corporate governance, strategic planning, and risk management, which can contribute to the long-term success of the company.

  4. Access to Networks: Non-family directors often come with extensive networks of contacts in various industries. Leveraging these networks can open doors to new opportunities for partnerships, alliances, and business development, which can be instrumental in driving growth.

  5. Succession Planning: Introducing non-family directors can facilitate smoother succession planning processes. They can provide guidance on leadership development, mentorship, and talent management, ensuring that the next generation of leaders is well-prepared to take the reins.

Inviting non-family members to join the Board of Directors of a family business is a decision that should be approached thoughtfully and strategically. While the rewards can be substantial in terms of diverse expertise, objective decision-making, and professional governance, there are also inherent risks, including cultural misalignment, lack of commitment, and resistance to change.

To mitigate these risks and maximise the rewards, family businesses should carefully select non-family directors who not only possess the requisite skills and experience but also align with the company's values, culture, and long-term vision.
Establishing clear expectations, fostering open communication, and building trust among all board members can help create a harmonious and effective governance structure that drives sustainable growth and success for generations to come.

About the Author: David Twiddle is Managing Partner of TWYD & Co, a boutique executive search and talent advisory firm specialising in family business. Email:


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