min read

The insights from AGS2024 shaping Airteam

Patrick Goffin
March 26, 2024
Australian Governance Summit 2024

I recently attended the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Australian Governance Summit 2024 (AGS24). Coming away from the event, I felt reassured that, as a SME business, Airteam is punching well above its weight. 

Our processes and practices in governance and business operations seem more sophisticated and advanced than many enterprises ten times our size. However, it's important to acknowledge that we're not perfect. We understand that the business landscape is constantly evolving, and we're committed to a journey of continuous improvement.

Highlighting Airteam’s business operation strengths

Over the course of the two-day summit there were some key discussions that reflected back to me the strength of the business we have built.

Areas where I believe Airteam shines:

  1. Human centred design: There was a lot of talk about putting the customer at the centre of your organisation, with Catherine Livingstone AO FAICD championing Design Thinking for solving complex issues. At Airteam, Human Centred Design is more than a practice; it's our culture, deeply embedded in every aspect of our work and consistently applied to our client projects.
  1. Work health and safety: It’s critical to uphold work health and safety standards for remote employees just as for those in the office. At Airteam, we make sure each team member's work-from-home environment is ergonomically assessed, with budgets allocated for optimal setups. Our Head of Crew and Culture, Laura, maintains regular one-on-one sessions focusing on mental wellbeing. We’re also about to introduce an Employee Assistance Program and have several trained mental health first aiders on team.
  1. Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns keeping board directors awake at night. The summit emphasised the need for boards to adopt strategies like the “essential eight,” and to maintain oversight through key cyber health metrics. Embracing the AICD’s Cyber Governance Principles as a framework was also strongly advised. At Airteam, we're committed to maintaining vigilance with ongoing cyber awareness training and regular phishing simulations to ensure every team member is alert to cyber threats. Our investment in achieving ISO 27001 – Information Security Management certification, conducting routine penetration testing, and adhering to robust development frameworks like AWS Well-Architected and OWASP Top10 are all part of how we keep our standards high and our data secure.
  1. Governance: Good governance extends beyond compliance and box checking; it's about embedding these principles into our day-to-day business practices. Our journey began with the creation of the Airteam Management System, designed to document our business processes and governance frameworks. This effort led us to achieve ISO 9001 certification and also enabled us to enhance our day-to-day operations and project management practices.

Concentrating on governance structuring at Airteam

The summit also highlighted some growth opportunities that we had been considering, but now realise the importance of. 

Prior to the AGS24 summit, Rich and I had been contemplating the idea of creating a more structured board for Airteam. Coming away from this conference, I’m convinced that it's crucial we implement this formal board structure this year. 

The summit highlighted several fundamental principles for establishing a successful board:

  • The cornerstone of trust: Trust and integrity are vital for the relationship between the board and management to succeed.
  • Elevating conversations: Engaging in creative dialogue is essential for steering discussions at the board table.
  • Beyond the board pack: Directors can add further value by asking questions of management outside the board pack.
  • Singular vision: The entire organisation's strategy should be succinct enough to fit on a single page.
  • AI governance: There is likely to soon be a future need where companies report on AI Governance as much as they do now around ESG. 
  • Continual feedback loop: Instead of settling for annual reviews, we should aim for more frequent feedback sessions. The analogy one panel member gave was that an AFL player is told every quarter where they can make improvements and an F1 driver every 30 seconds, we see the value in providing timely and constructive feedback within our team.

Showcasing where Airteam is bucking industry trends

The summit didn't just offer reassurances and opportunities for growth; it also shed light on trends that Airteam confidently steps away from. One notable observation was the average age at the conference leaning towards the more experienced side, aligning with the statistic that the average age of an ASX 300 board director in Australia is 60, as reported by the 2023 Board Diversity Index from Watermark Search International. 

This prompted me to question during a panel discussion how younger individuals could carve a path to board roles.

Here's some of the answers that were shared:

  • Teamwork and collaborative contribution are key for a board’s success, showcasing these traits is essential.
  • Bringing a strategic perspective and situational awareness to the board through your experiences can be a game-changer.
  • Age should not be a barrier; the ability to bridge the skills gap in a board position is what truly counts. Understanding and communicating your unique X factor is crucial, especially when engaging with executive search firms.
  • Gaining experience with the board by starting in sub-committees is beneficial. It helps you become known and understood in terms of how you operate within the board structure.
  • Seek out boards that value what you bring to the table and proactively pursue these roles as a targeted mission.

These shared insights reinforce our belief at Airteam that diverse perspectives fuel innovation and strategic growth. It's a reminder that fostering a culture of inclusivity not only enriches board dynamics but also propels the company forward.

My personal learnings from AGS2024

Reflecting on personal learnings and observations that I took away from my first proper conference since pre-pandemic days:

  1. Networking at these events has always been a challenge for me, leaning towards the introverted side. Post-Covid, these challenges seem magnified, especially when entering rooms filled with pre-acquainted groups. I’ve made a mental note to polish up on ice-breaker questions and finesse the art of joining established group discussions. Tips from fellow networkers are always welcome.
  1. It’s remarkable how conference technology has advanced:
  • AI-facilitated real-time transcription brought each speaker's words to life.
  • The quality of international videocasts is now so seamless, it nearly feels like the speakers are there in person.
  • Modern conference apps have significantly improved interactivity, offering functionalities like in-app Q&A and convenient note-taking, allowing me to capture and revisit insights post-event.
  • Sustainability efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, with lunch served in reusable containers and coffee cups becoming the norm at MCEC – commendable steps indeed.

As the summit wrapped up, I found myself weary yet filled with optimism. Serving as an executive director of a SME involves a relentless juggle between strategic oversight and day-to-day management – a dual role that’s as demanding as it is rewarding. This constant balance is challenging, yes, but that’s why we do it right?

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