The concept is that of "DIY governance", whereby owners and managers of small and medium businesses join a membership organisation to share ideas and provide support. Similar organisations abound in the market; BNI and Chambers of Commerce being two well-established examples. However, when one looks a little more closely, The Alternative Board has some unusual characteristics:
- The organisation is actually a franchise business headquartered in the USA
- A press release issued today states that members "act as boards of directors for each other"
Membership of an organisation that provides assistance and collegial support is a good thing, although prospective members may baulk when they consider that this is not a classical break-even membership organisation that exists for the good of the members. The primary motivation seems to be the generation of profits for the owners—that's why franchises exist after all. Owners of smaller businesses that utilise a partnership or sole trader ownership structure can decide what they think about this and whether the proposition delivers value or not.
Stepping past this first point, there is a larger and potentially more troublesome question for those who operate their business as a company. Advisors that perform tasks similar to those of boards of directors can be deemed to be directors. As such, well-meaning members may, unknowingly and unwittingly, become bound by the Companies Act (and amendments) and the legal duties of directors.
Given these characteristics, and the implications of them, my recommendation to owners and managers who are considering whether or not to become members of The Alternative Board is this: Do your homework first. Caveat emptor.