Earlier this week we talked about the many changes going on in corporate boards. I believe it’s critical for entrepreneurs to have the right people on their leadership teams. I always remind my clients and partners they should be as critical in the selection of their board as they are when choosing a new person for their leadership team because, in many ways, today’s board plays a critical role in building a stronger organization.
I believe that boards will continue to evolve as we see many leaders retire. I also believe the board’s role in early stage organizations can mean the difference between success and failure for the organization. We have to look at our boards in a revolutionary way because business has changed that much.
Since I spend so much time with board members, I have come up with several guidelines to help you attract and recruit great members for your board. I believe there are many differences between a Fortune 500 board and a privately held or family business board. Today, we talk about privately held or private business boards. I see creating agile boards for private organizations as a key competitive advantage moving forward. If you put the right structure in place for your board you can gain significant advantage through this additional high performing team. Since many of my clients are emerging technology businesses, I believe they can create significant leverage through this innovative board structure.
So how do we do this? Why does it make sense to have a different kind of board when you have a business that has revenue between 25-75 million dollars? I find these organizations have unique challenges and a model similar to what you find on advisory team. They can provide leverage to your organization while proving greater flexibility in how your business seizes market share and new opportunities.
Your board can bring a number of key dimensions to the table. Their ability to help you work through your strategies and market scenarios can help your teams allocate critical resources to the right opportunities during the early stages of your business is invaluable.
You also need to work harder to attract younger people to your board. In the past, boards are where individual went when they got older. The disruptive nature of business today requires board members who bring fresh perspectives to the organization. Think about putting some of your customers and clients on the board. If you’re a family business, your board is a place to bring future leaders (sometimes your children or family to the team). I’ve seen the board as a place that can help others develop their leadership skills with peers who are better equipped to help them grow over the longer term.
Board members should be well connected where you are not. As you look to create a stronger board you should look for complementary capabilities among the team members. Your goal should be to create a high performing team versus having extremely competent, but less connected individuals. In the global economy, it is critical to find people who have a larger view of your potential markets. Many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with are so focused on the United States they miss better opportunities overseas.
Finally, board members should serve as advocates and surrogates for your organization. You should select people with strong communication skills for your boards. These people should be able to communicate your value proposition through their own markets. At least, they should be able to help you identify early customers and stakeholders for your new products and services.
Successful organizations in the future will want to build stronger boards while not adhering to traditional corporate board structures and responsibilities. As an organization continues to grow, you need to add different key members to your team. Take time to consider what you’re looking for in your new team members or what strengths individuals need to help your organization thrive and flourish.