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The Board of Directors

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The board of directors of a limited company is primarily responsible for determining the objectives and policies of a business. It is the directors who determine the direction the business is going to take. They will need to ensure that the necessary funds are available and will appoint key staff to whom they will delegate the authority to run the business on a day-to-day basis. They will need to design an effective organisation structure so that there is both a chain of command linking one level of management with another and an effective communication network so that instructions can be passed downward and information passed upward.

The directors are appointed by the shareholders, normally at the company's annual general meeting, at which the chairman of the board will be expected to account for their stewardship during the previous year. The company's accounts will be presented to the shareholders at that time so they can judge for themselves whether or not the board has been successful.

Direction in business is like strategy in a war situation. The strategic decisions determine the areas in which the company's resources will be employed. Above all it involves planning to ensure that the business first survives and then flourishes. Strategic decisions, made by the board of directors, are concerned with the disposition of resources. These contrast with the tactical decisions by means of which the senior executives (appointed by the directors) carry out in detail the plans conceived or approved by the board of directors.

The fact that boards of directors tend to meet rather infrequently, say once a week, that part-time directors can be elected to the board. Since they will not have departmental responsibilities within the company they are often described as non-executive directors. There are arguments in favour of such directors though they may lack a detailed knowledge of the company's activities. They may bring expertise to the board. Some are lawyers, or experts in tax affairs. Some represent influential groups of shareholders whose support is necessary if the board is going to carry out its plans, while others are directors in a number of companies and are used to interlock boards within a group of companies. For example, a holding (or parent) company may appoint a director from their board to serve on the board of a subsidiary company, with a view to keeping a watching brief on the directors' activities.

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