At its most fundamental level, a board of directors provides stewardship for shareholder interests, including governance, oversight and approval of major corporate decisions. In our experience in serving on the boards of many companies, we have found that board members should provide at least one of three things: connections, wisdom or capital. But to get the most out of whatever your board members are bringing to the table, it’s up to the company to learn how to best work with the board, as opposed to just having them periodically show up for meetings.
At a baseline level, you must make sure your board members understand the fundamental drivers of your business. Before every meeting, get them all the relevant information needed to understand the current state of the business. You should also let them know beforehand the three or four most important things you need advice, guidance or assistance on. This way, you can spend about 25% of your valuable board meeting time reviewing the information to provide further clarity, and the other 75% can be spent drawing upon those various assets the board members bring to your company, making board meetings as educational for you as they are for your board members.
It is also critical to build the board’s confidence in your team and your company. The board is already made up of believers, so you don’t need to spend a lot of time selling the company and the opportunities over and over. It is much more important to be accurate than to be bold – board members appreciate honesty and a realistic assessment of the company. The board should also understand the company’s plan. Surprises at the board level should be minimal – if the plan isn’t working exactly, bringing board members in as soon as possible is key, as their connections and wisdom can be used to adjust the plan.
The bottom line – your board members can be an incredible resource for your company to help it grow and thrive, as long as you commit to going beyond your typical board presentations and work to leverage the connections and wisdom your board members are offering your company.