Berry Gardens nourished by Diligent Boards
Over the last four decades, Berry Gardens has become the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production and marketing group. The company’s success is reflected in its sales: In 2014, the company sold over £240 million worth of product, a market share in excess of 30%. They began using the Diligent Boards™ solution in the autumn of 2014.
Berry Gardens is a Co-operative of UK soft and stone fruit growers delivering year-round supplies of berries and stone fruit products to the UK’s leading retailers from both the UK and overseas. Delivering on their mission, “To ensure honesty and openness in all our commercial dealings,” requires a board that is up-to-date and empowered with the latest information used to steer the already successful company. The Berry Gardens main board has 16 regular attendees who meet a total of five times a year. In addition, a 10-person sub-board meets seven times a year.
Board materials were compiled once a month for approximately 18 people. The company’s board members are located all over the UK, so each meeting required a panicked race to compile packs and dispatch them by courier. According to Nick Allen, the company’s finance director, “The process took two days’ worth of work for the administrators to complete the packs and half a day of my own time every month.” Then there was the cost: Each pack, on average, contained up to 200 pages at a print cost of 3p for colour copying and 1p for the paper itself. That’s not to mention the £10 postage cost for each packet.
Berry Gardens began its journey toward a digital solution in two different phases. For a brief period, they used PDFs that were distributed by an app. But ultimately, glitches in the system, coupled with security concerns, caused the company to think twice. It was then that Allen came across an advertisement from Diligent and decided to investigate a board portal solution. After researching competitors and talking to the representatives at different providers, Berry Gardens chose Diligent. “The Diligent Boards solution is just such a clear leader in the area. There really wasn’t much to discuss about it,” noted Allen.
Since transitioning to Diligent Boards, Allen noticed that the company’s board meetings became much more efficient and well organised. He attributes this improvement to the lead time the Diligent Boards solution affords executive board members.
“Now they really have the time to pre-read all the material and formulate opinions on major decisions,” observed Allen. Today, the company’s meetings are shorter by upwards of two hours per meeting.
In addition, Berry Gardens’ physical storage issues have vanished. With paper-based packs, the company stored a pallet of archived records each year. Now Berry Gardens is considering expanding Diligent Boards to other uses outside board meetings. Allen’s favourite feature? The resources section that allows critical information to be stored and retrieved at the touch of a screen.
August 22, 2019
How to Make Board Reports Shorter & More Insightful
UK Company Secretaries are questioning with how to balance board of directors’ need for greater insight while avoiding board reporting becoming even more voluminous and time-consuming.
July 22, 2019
The Path to Board Diversity
Board diversity is well-established on the boardroom agenda – but many boards are still far from diverse.
July 9, 2019
Building a Balanced Board: The Challenges of Board Composition
In May 2019, as part of a long running partnership with the ICSA, we looked at the challenges facing the 21st century board and the company secretary’s role in supporting and guiding chairs and boards to meet these challenges.