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This paper presents the findings from in-depth interviews with 22 executive and non-executive/ independent directors of New Zealand firms. The discussions focused on how boards make decisions that would foster growth, scale-up, innovation and internationalisation – all of which associated with higher productivity and are characteristics of frontier firms. The aim of the interviews was to generate new insights about how current corporate governance practices are supporting or impeding the productivity of New Zealand firms.

Key findings

  1. A good Chair is key to a successful board. An effective Chair can facilitate open and respectful dialogue and manage a diversity of voices to enable decisions to be made.
  2. The role of the board evolves through a firm’s lifecycle. In early-stage firms, board members will be more hands-on, working alongside management and providing practical advice. In more mature firms, the board’s role is more about providing constructive challenge to management – being a “critical friend”.
  3. The most important decision the board makes is appointing the CEO. Many firms reach a point in their growth when the founder/owner needs to be moved out of the Managing Director role, and a professional CEO appointed. A common problem is leaving this too late, and this can inhibit a firm’s growth and performance.
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