The interview survey conducted by the Aalto University School of Business for Board Partners Helsinki (Helsingin Hallituspartnerit ry) revealed how decision-makers in small and medium-sized enterprises view corporate boards and their work. The project was implemented as part of the capstone course for the Master's Degree Programme in Accounting.
The purpose of a capstone course is to summarise everything that a student has learned during their studies. As part of the course, students conduct different group assignments for companies or other actors.
Critical and positive attitudes
In the survey that the students conducted for Board Partners Helsinki, the students wanted to find out why Finnish companies do or do not include external board members. What sorts of expertise areas and benefits were expected from external board members?
Some of the respondents who were critical of corporate boards stated the following:
‘Our company feels so personal that we don't want to include anyone who isn't a part of it,’ noted one CEO, chair of the board and majority shareholder.
‘We didn't know that we could include a board member without causing a significant financial burden,’ one CEO and shareholder said.
‘For a company to succeed, you need to focus on your operations instead of searching for someone who's supposedly smarter than you to tell you how things should to be done,’ one CEO, chair of the board and majority shareholder said.
Some of the respondents also had positive things to say about corporate boards.
‘There’s always the very real risk that the original owners of a company can slow down growth and development if they aren’t able to bring in new ideas, not to mention if their decisions are the direct cause for the slowdown,’ noted one CEO and shareholder.
‘It seems that Finnish entrepreneurs haven’t realised what external board members can bring to the table,’ noted Mika Haavisto, Project Manager at the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.
In connection with the publication of the survey results, Board Partners Helsinki launched the kasvutarinat.fi site (in Finnish) to share success stories about corporate board work in Finnish SMEs.
Over 40 projects and counting
Of the 40 capstone course projects that have been implemented so far as part of the Master’s Degree Programme in Accounting, around half have been conducted in cooperation with the financial management of listed Finnish companies. Other cooperation partners include public sector actors, startups and organisations.
‘The course has been a success, and it has provided our students with the opportunity to focus on useful, real-world questions. An integral part of the course is presenting the final thesis to the management of the group’s cooperation partner, and it has been a privilege to see how ready our students have been to present their results even when they're in front of a listed company’s board of directors,’ notes lecturing researcher Jari Melgin DSc (Econ) from the Department of Accounting.
In addition to Jari Melgin, the course is alternately led by Professor of Practise Olli-Pekka Lumijärvi and Assistant Professor Jari Huikku.
DSc (Econ), M. Soc. Sc. Jari Melgin, lecturing researcher, research director for Aalto University
Tel. +358 40 540 1779
DSc (Econ) Katja Kolehmainen, Director, Capful Oy, research director for Board Partners Helsinki
Tel. +358 50 461 8789