Doug Gurr is Chairman of the National Museum of Science and Industry (NMSI) and Executive Development Director at Asda.
What would make UK boardrooms more effective?
We should push for a greater degree of transparency from our boardrooms. A good discipline would be to publish the rationale behind decisions in a similar fashion to the MPC. If boards had to justify their decisions, perhaps they would work through each one in greater depth. Our boards would also benefit if the role of a non-executive became a formal profession, with accredited training and well developed career pathways.
What are the biggest challenges ahead for charity trustees?
One of the biggest challenges facing many trustees of charities over the next few years will be helping their charity to survive the government spending cuts — they will need to focus on efficiencies and fundraising.
What are the major differences between a trustee board and a private company board?
Perhaps the biggest difference is that there are no executive members on a trustee board and the board takes on some responsibilities that are beyond the scope of the executive team. It is especially important therefore, to choose the right individuals with the right skills and then assign appropriate tasks to each. Trustees often become experts in certain areas and the board is structured with sub-committees to accommodate this.
At NMSI we are accountable to the Secretary of State and each trustee is appointed by the Prime Minister. This makes nomination and selection a much longer process than for private appointments.
Who do you go to for advice?
Personally, I go to professionals who are experts in their respective fields. For general advice, though, I have three categories of advisers; “grey hairs”, who have done the role before or been through similar challenges; “mentors”, who I respect in the work environment and “customers/stakeholders”. There is nothing better than listening to real feedback from the customer themselves.
What advice would you give your children in business?
Follow your passion.
Which companies or industries would you back for the next decade?
The hot technology at the moment is mobile commerce. It will bridge the gap between on-line and off-line environments and revolutionise commerce.
What do you wish you had known?
At the start of my career I wish I’d known more about macro-economics and the major underlying forces that create opportunity and risk for business. However good you may be at dealing with day to day challenges, you need to have a sense of what the sweeping tides are. Great private equity houses do this excellently.
What book is on your bedside table?
Amongst others: The New Museology by Peter Virgo; Beryl Burton’s Autobiography, Personal Best; and a Biography of Roosevelt by Peter Vergo.