Good governance is no longer an option

BDO and GUBERNA join forces for SMEs

Mieke Loncke, Marketing & Communication Director BDO Belgium

Good governance as a strong incentive for sustainable growth and entrepreneurship. That sounds obvious, but quite a few SMEs suffer from procrastination. After all, the operational business keeps going on. Understandable, but do not underestimate the importance of good governance. To give your board of directors an extra boost, GUBERNA and BDO are combining their expertise. Practical and goal-oriented.

Good governance goes beyond “getting things in order” and minimising business risks. Good governance also means breaking out of the daily business in order to discover long-term opportunities. An increasing number of SMEs – certainly now that a younger generation is taking over the helm – are convinced that further professionalisation can only take place with a professional and balanced board of directors or advisory board that looks beyond the horizon and dares to challenge the owner-shareholder. However, resources and knowledge are still too often lacking to really make it work.

“Good governance strengthens SME resilience in a BANI world (Brittle, Anxious, Non Linear, Incomprehensible).”

Liesbeth De Ridder, Secretaris-generaal GUBERNA

You will find this expertise and knowledge at GUBERNA, the institute for directors that for many decades now has been advocating good governance and supporting listed and larger companies. “We have been broadening this strategy towards the SME market for several years now,” says Secretary-General Liesbeth De Ridder. “Because the Belgian economic fabric is for over 80% supported by SMEs, but above all because sustainable entrepreneurship is impossible today without good governance. In fact, it’s an inherent part of it.”

“Sustainable entrepreneurship also means ESG-compliant (Environment, Social and Governance) business,” adds Catherine Delanghe. She is responsible for the SME Governance Centre within GUBERNA. “Government pressure is increasing. Consider the European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which requires listed and large companies to measure and disclose additional non-financial data – such as the CO2 footprint – as of 2024.” This is expected to apply to smaller and unlisted companies by 2026, although SMEs will already be confronted with the trickle-down effect of larger partners in the chain. They will also experience pressure from other stakeholders, such as customers, employees and suppliers who consider good governance essential for sustainable value creation. “In this way, good governance also becomes a lever for employer branding and reputation management.”

“Good governance is a lever for value creation, employer branding and reputation management.”

Catherine Delanghe, SME Governance Centre GUBERNA

Natural match

In search of a partner who knows and understands the SME market like their own pocket, it was a foregone conclusion for GUBERNA to come to BDO Belgium. Gert Maris, Partner at BDO: “We speak the language of SMEs, know their challenges and pitfalls, but at the same time have the expertise and network to facilitate ‘good governance’ in a digital and, above all, feasible way and to further professionalise existing boards of directors.” As an SME, it is not easy to break free from day-to-day business, but you can achieve a great deal with an experienced coach or advisor. “The difference between ‘governance’ and ‘good governance’ often lies in very small things,” emphasises Gert. “But you have to start, delay is no longer an option.”

“The difference between ‘governance’ and ‘good governance’ sometimes lies in very small things.”

Gert Maris, Partner BDO Belgium

Where do you start? Three hands-on tools

There are a ton of books about good governance. Doing(!) is the message. Together with GUBERNA, we offer three tools:

  1. The Governance Maturity Scan (available on – FR or NL). You can find out how ‘governance’ mature your SME’s current governance model is via a questionnaire. And what your challenges are.
  2. The Board Resilience Test (available free of charge from 2023). Using this test, we map out the resilience, sustainability and innovative capacity of your management body.
  3. The Board Self Evaluation Tool (available from 2023). This practical evaluation exercise examines nine governance criteria.