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Adrian Sallis

Nov 10, 2023

Association Governance - A CEO's Perspective Part I


The following is Part 1 of a 4-part interview series with Robyn Pickerill, the CEO of the Franchise Association of New Zealand. Our conversation centred around her experience of Governance and board management. She also shares tools, strategies, and advice that Association CEOs, especially new ones, will find useful.


How long have you been the CEO of FANZ?

It will be eight years at the end of January. So, yes, time flies when you're having fun, and it has indeed been a very enjoyable and interesting journey.

Was this role the first time you had to report to a board?

It could be classed as the first official one. I had a similar role in another organisation, a retail group, which operated very much the same way, but it was not a formal registered entity.

So, it was a bit of a learning curve?

The whole role has been a learning curve. I didn't find the board reporting side too difficult because as I said earlier, I had come from a similar role.  I have also served on school boards for many years, as well as acting chair at different times, and I am currently on the board of a charitable trust, so I was very familiar with the running of a board. 

In principle, all boards are similar in their underlying operations. Not-for-profits are slightly different as we must abide by the incorporated rules of the society, and in many cases the board roles are voluntary, as in ‘not paid’ and the Board are elected by the membership. 

What in particular makes it unique?

I think it's the specific rules for one’s association. You must be familiar with the rules as this is the framework for what the association can and cannot do. The uniqueness is also relevant to the industry that you're in. For our association, our members come from a myriad of different industries, but our focus is on the franchising business model, not a particular industry. As the Franchise Association we also have a Code of Practice and Ethics which our members must adhere to.

Recently in New Zealand, The Incorporated Society Act has been updated and all societies will need to get up to speed with this and re-register. So that's a reasonably significant change for a lot of not-for-profits.

What's the current makeup of your board?

At FANZ there are seven board members, two ladies and five men. Seven is our minimum requirement. Under our rules FANZ can co-opt additional members and from time to time this has been done.  This may be to add a particular skill set for example.

The FANZ Board members all come from the membership base and are elected by the membership for a two-year term. A Board member may seek re-election at the end of the two years, and over time many have done this. FANZ has an election every year, and generally there are a couple of changes but our composition is such that we don’t have a situation where the entire board is up for election in any one year.  It tends to alternate 3 one year and 4 the next.

It's preferable not to have big changes each year as consistency of tenure ensures a great deal of stability.

How do you go about recruiting new board members?

FANZ officially invites the membership for nominations, and quite often members will encourage their colleagues to put their names forward. Sometimes members will approach us and ask what they need to do to get on the board.  We advise that it helps if they are active participants in the association, which means attending events and putting themselves forward for panel discussions and any other opportunities that are called for.  Members will connect better with the name on the voting list if the person has been visible in some way in the association or if the business/franchise they represent is well known and respected.

Then it's a vote I presume? 

It depends, last year there were two vacancies at FANZ, and we had three people put their names forward so, yes, there was an election. If there were only two nominations to fill two vacancies, then there would not be an election. Most years there is an election.

Nominees need to provide a photo and a 300-word brief summary about themselves.  They should state why they want to be on the board and/or how they can contribute, share a little about their history as a franchisor or an affiliate and something relatable about themselves. Standard information one would share for any election process. It is then up to the members. Ballots are sent out electronically via Election Runner to each member organisation. We find Election Runner very easy to use and very affordable.  A closing date is set in the backend and then the results are instant.  The elected candidates are announced at the AGM which is just a few days after the voting closes.

How do you onboard a new board member? Is there a manual, training or do you provide mentorship?

We do have a briefing paper that it is provided to all new board members which provides basic information about how the board runs including very mundane things like lunch protocols for meeting day, but also much other useful information about how the board runs, what we do, what's required of them and where they can find information such as previous minutes and financials.

I endeavour to meet with the new board members over a coffee, so we can chat, get acquainted and they can get an overview of projects being worked on, and generally hear how everything runs. This is a great opportunity for the new board member to ask questions and also a chance to get to know each other. I like them to feel welcome. Typically, new board members do already know other people on the board, so it really is fairly smooth sailing. 

For the first couple of meetings, most new board members usually do more observing than actively participating, but this would be common in most new situations. Whilst we have no very formal induction, there are generic resources online and available through Boardpro, so some do their own research. Many of our board members are directors on other boards so are extremely well equipped to be up and running quickly. That said, it is not an issue if an elected member has no previous board experience, as there are courses readily available that they can do.

Continue with the interview

You can read the other parts of the interview here:

Part II      Part III      Part IV

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