When David W Duffy wrote a book on corporate governance in 2004, it’s fair to say it wasn’t brilliantly received in the industry at which it was aimed.
“It was neither popular nor profitable at the time,” Duffy said of the book, A Practical Guide to Corporate Governance.
Nearly two decades on, Duffy’s idea – educating directors on how to be better board members, and helping companies play a more productive role in their societies – has led to him starting a new venture, the Corporate Governance Institute.
The Dublin native, who has worked for Accenture and PwC and set up several other businesses, founded the institute last year with Anthony Quigley, a long-time entrepreneur and investor.
In the 16 months since they established the business, the pair have raised €500,000, hired 14 staff and attracted more than 300 customers in over a dozen countries.
Backed by Enterprise Ireland, the institute aims to establish a global standard in corporate governance and become a world leader in the provision of education to the biggest companies in the world.
If corporate governance education seems an obvious idea, then that’s perhaps because it is. But Quigley said the company hoped to take advantage of the fact that “from a business perspective, it’s not being done very well”.
“And the people who are doing it well charge a lot of money, and you have to go to them to do it,” he said.
It’s perhaps for this reason that less than half a per cent of directors in boardrooms are certified, according to research carried out by the institute.
With 10-week online courses delivered by experts in corporate governance, Duffy and Quigley hope to make it cheaper and easier for companies to educate their directors.
In a world where directors are heavily scrutinised for their behaviour, the pair believe the online course can not only help companies, but also the societies they operate in.
“Every day, somewhere in the news, a board somewhere is doing something wrong, and if you’re a director, you’re realising that this can’t be right,” Quigley said.
“This is helping our business, because those companies or individuals then go onto Google and say: ‘I need some training in this. I need to understand how to be a better board member, and how not to make these mistakes.’”
The Corporate Governance Institute doesn’t only seek to help companies avoid controversy; it aims to help them proactively meet the challenges facing the world.
Quigley and Duffy said a key aspect of their offering was keeping on top of social shifts to help companies adapt to a rapidly changing world.
“We’re trying to be an organisation that is in the moment,” Quigley said.
In the long run, the pair hope to become the “de facto” global standard for corporate governance, by virtue of reaching a critical mass of directors who will then bring the standards they learn into their own boardrooms.