I recently attended the week long Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Company Directors Course at Customs House in Brisbane.
And what a great week it was, with new business connections made and many new governance learnings, especially around the compliance and finance areas.
So I thought I’d give you a quick overview of the process, plus some tips for the assignment and exam – after all, passing these important steps shows that you understand the fundamentals of a directorship and also get’s you the “G or graduate” status next to your AICD membership credentials.
The AICD Company Directors Course
With a busy business and family life I like to get things done quickly. So I chose the week long intensive AICD course rather than the longer form one.
The sessions were varied and the content updated my governance knowledge. I also learnt some new and all important methodologies for calculating financial statements in annual reports. Follow these great tips from the presenters during these sessions!
The biggest tip they gave was around reviewing annual reports. They suggested that we all skip straight to the directors report and start crunching the real numbers and state of the business.
Here you’ll see the real state of play, the company’s intangibles (important), debt & debt ratios (how leveraged it is) and how many times it’s directors actually show up to board meetings. The latter saying a lot about whether an organisation might have a good culture from the board down.
Another key area for me was the compliance components and the highlights of knowing when to assist your management in the day-to-day compliance activities and when to step back.
OH&S was also discussed as too financial compliance to the ATO and ASIC – areas that mean you could go to jail if you stuff up!
The term “noses in, fingers out” was used often during the compliance part of the course as it’s well know that directors often get a little carried away and are too involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. Getting a good management team and letting them get on with it is paramount to supporting them here.
Over all the food was great, networking good for long lasting LinkedIn connections and we had a glass of bubbles at the end to celebrate an intensive week.
The Assignment – tips
Once you get back on deck and come up for air, you’ll have 6 weeks from the completion date of your course to finish both the 3,000 word assignment and the exam.
I went straight into the assignment and did the QSportz question.
The main tip here is to take plenty of time to closely read the information and then re-read it over a period of a few days so it really goes in.
Highlight any areas that you feel warrant further exploration. I found that by applying the rules learnt from the course against the reading materials it started to make sense after a few weeks of assignment reading.
I spent about 5 weeks all up on the assignment and constantly refined it over weekends, making it more and more succinct. To keep to the 10% either side of the 3000 words, I also read and worked on it at different times and removed things that just laboured the point. In the end, I ended up with mainly bullet points as my responses.
A final assignment tip is first up concentrate on the areas you feel are the hardest for you. So if finance is tough one, do this part first using your new ways of calculating the viability of an organisation from your course. Trust me, it will make sense!
And then submit the assignment with a few days to spare and check with the AICD that they’ve received it by getting a return receipt via email.
The Exam – tips
I completed the exam after the assignment as I personally needed the time to adequately prepare for it. I’d been warned that it was tough and in the end it sure was.
Preparing for the exam brought back memories of doing exams during my uni days, albeit 20 years later. A lot of note taking, writing out the core areas that I felt were going to be in there and doing any practice exams (these days they’re online!).
The exam preparation process that I used included:
– Read all the course notes and highlighted the key areas that I felt were important
– Made notes on the course materials regarding the main topics that would be in the exam
– Practiced the finance questions from materials provided during the course (there are a few finance questions in there – apparently you only need to answer one)
– Wrote out the important notes of the key areas under headings such as Finance, Compliance, Risk and Strategy (amongst others) and then re-did them again.
I then booked in a friend who qualified as my invigilator and sat the exam on a Wednesday. I had an office at his work (with wi-fi) and this allowed him to have line of sight and for me to get on with it on my Mac.
One big tip though – on the exam, you don’t need to answer two finance questions, just the one. I accidentally answered two finance questions and reckon it nearly cost me the “G” gong!
And don’t spend too long on the multiple choice questions, as they’ll suck up your time and won’t leave you with much scope for the longer form questions.
All the best with your course, assignment and exam preparation.