Network Structure and governance
As opposed to global companies who own branches around the world, international networks
are virtual global companies. They have independent members who join (and leave) voluntarily.
Running a network is in the hands of just a few people and in most cases only one or two
have a full time coordinating role. The supervision of their activities is carried out by
a small group who does this only as part time activity.
A network needs a document setting out how it works. It could also be called Articles of
Membership or Constitution and members would sign this when admitted to the network. Items
- Vision and Mission statements
- Roles and responsibilities
The network elects a chairman from its membership and this role should be for two or three
years with possibly one extra term. This person should have the necessary wisdom, cultural
awareness, time and commitment to perform an international supervisory role effectively,
- Chair meetings
- Oversee the activities of the chief executive
This role, also called executive director, is pivotal to the success of a network. Tasks
are wide-ranging and involve travel, administration, PR, high quality inter-personal skills
and certainly include more than the following:
- Network coordination
- Membership development
- Maintenance of information database and communication systems
- Provision of value-added services
The chairman is assisted by several other members in monitoring the performance of the network.
This group is usually called the Board or Executive Committee. Depending on the
size of the network and its administration, there may be a need for a Financial Officer.
Membership should rotate every three years or so. This group would meet fairly frequently.
Most larger networks have separate groups for their international specialists.
These are the people chiefly involved with new business referrals and servicing. Their networking
activities ensure the unbeatable service clients appreciate. They also swap ideas, share
experience and expertise and assist in the development of network tools such as standardised
Handling business across borders in different languages can easily result in misunderstandings
and mistakes. Personal relationships count for a lot and to have good systems in place is
essential. The network needs:
- Proper dialogue between the chief executive and the chairman and the board
- (Bi)Annual meetings of all members to discuss budget, strategy, progress, performance,
business development, etc
- Guidelines for international client servicing
- User-friendly database and network communications
In our next e-newsletter we will look at The Benefits of a Network