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The Importance of Board Retreats

Fall 2022 Issue

By Greg Gonnering, Vice President of Mutual Assistance

Long-term planning and communication between a mutual and its board are vital to the health of the company.

Regular board meetings play an important role, but rarely does a board meeting’s scope extend beyond what the company is doing right now and what should be done in the immediate future. For a more robust and longer-term planning session, we recommend incorporating board retreats into your schedule.

What exactly is a board retreat? It’s a workshop in which your leaders create a strategic plan, set goals and arrive at a consensus about the company’s direction.

Board retreats should typically be held offsite to prevent any distractions and should address your company’s three- and, if available, five-year plans. Most board retreats can last from a half a day to two days, depending on the depth and breadth of topics discussed.

To plan an effective board retreat, we recommend that you:

  • Identify the main purpose or topics for the meeting, such as:
    • How to improve surplus, grow premium and reduce your exposures over the next three to five years
    • Governance
    • Succession planning
    • Disaster recovery planning
  • Have one person facilitate the event to prevent too many distractions
    • Create an agenda
    • Distribute the agenda to all parties in advance and ask them to confirm that they received and reviewed it
    • Select someone to take notes
    • Assign any homework prior to the meeting
  • Keep things simple and realistic
    • Ensure the goals you set are achievable and attainable.

Once you have set your retreat purpose, decide who will facilitate and send the agenda/agendas to participants. Also write down questions to ask and any topics to discuss that fit within the agenda. Focus on bringing each point of discussion to a proper resolution before moving on.

With most board retreats it is recommended that you perform a SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal of the analysis is to identify these for your company and strategize how you will capitalize on the internal strengths and opportunities and limit external weaknesses and threats. Once you have completed the SWOT Analysis,  it will help you develop your three- or five-year plan.

The board plays an important role in the success of a mutual. Your manager cannot do it alone. You must understand the mutual’s strengths and challenges to make informed decisions and achieve success.