There are different schools of thought about when to create a board of directors for your business. I maintain it’s not AFTER your business begins to grow; but rather, at the inception of your business launch. This board – these people – will be your backbone and your conscience in good times and bad; so choose individuals who truly care about the success of your venture and those who mirror and will uphold the vision and goals of your business.
The quickest way to create chaos and disenfranchisement is to overload your board. It’s not a popularity contest to see how many of your friends will agree to join. This should be a relatively small group of individuals with the following qualities:
1. Varied expertise. Board members should not be your clones – their skill sets should be complementary to yours and vary from each other. When board members have unique experiences, they will provide more critical thinking based on their areas of expertise. Surround yourself with experts from all industries and walks of life. Look at your picks from a holistic point of view with diversity in thought, business, and background.
2. Seek passionate members. Many will be qualified; but a passionate board member will be loyal, will embrace your vision, and will likely leverage his/her network to promote your business. Passion is contagious, and other board members will be similarly influenced and inspired.
3. Independent thinkers. Be certain that your board members can make hard, objective decisions and aren’t simply committed to saying what you want to hear.
4. Set term limits. I recommend 12-24 months. Excitement and dedication are most apparent when people first become involved; but after a certain time, those who lack the passion for your business can become distracted and less involved. Setting term limits allows the process to happen naturally without the discomfort of removing someone from your board.
At the end of the day, you are responsible for not only your business success but also for keeping your board excited and inspired and reminding them that they have a stake in the organization. Treat them well, keep them informed, and allow them to help guide you as your business grows and prospers.
Vicki Ravenel is VP of Sales for an organization specializing in engagement and recognition. She serves as an Executive Member on the board of her beloved alma mater, the University of Mary Washington; and will serve as board president beginning in 2022. Vicki lives on Hilton Head Island with her husband William and her pup Delilah. They enjoy boating, beaching, and spoiling their 5 grandchildren.