Every company must have its board of directors, and it is these people, with their collective skills, experience and wisdom, who guide the firm and advise management through good times and the bad. Hans Jorda, chief executive and partner at executive search agency Neumann Partners, said the ideal board included international team members, and team members who were very familiar with their representative industry. Unfortunately, not all firms are blessed with ideal boards. 'Usually, when a company needs board people, the owners select friends,' Mr Jorda said of the traditional board selection process. 'All usually goes well as long as the company is thriving. Normally, this is an old-boy network. They look at a phone book and see who has experience in what.' Unfortunately, too many times chummy board members fail to steer management clear of mistakes or help it through difficult times, and the result is serious corporate disarray. Often, and too late, the company realises its board members have not been delivering or pulling their weight. At this point it is safe to assume that not all remain friends. Companies should ensure that they select people who can advise impartially and not act simply out of friendship. 'Not many companies here in Hong Kong have an international board,' said Mr Jorda, who strongly believes that any international company doing business in China should have Chinese people on its board, and by the same token any China firm doing business outside the mainland should have some international faces on its board. Asked about the difficulty inherent in finding the right people to sit on a board, especially in this age of corporate scandals and lawsuits, Mr Jorda said NeumannPartners had a databank of reliable people ready to offer their services to boards. According to Helene Krieff, managing partner, Asia-Pacific, Neumann Partners, many people see it as prestigious to belong to the board of a well-known company. The ideal board member is someone who has integrity, character and experience. Typically, a good board in Hong Kong is defined by its internationality and a representation of senior people in industries relevant to the company. Once you have a good board in place, you can focus on the people who run the company on a daily basis. 'If you want to acquire a firm, then you spend a lot of time and money on legal due diligence, and on the hard facts,' Mr Jorda said.