Sausage Making: Building A Forward-Looking Board

James Hill . June 24, 2016

Is your board 'forward-thinking'? At our recent CEO Summit, one of the Sausage Making sessions focused on how to turn board meetings from passive reporting to strategic weapons that help grow and accelerate businesses. Below are four key takeaways to help ensure Founders and CEOs build forward-looking boards:

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1. Board members must truly add value

As a CEO, you must determine if your board members are truly helping you grow your business and adding value, or if they are merely an empty reporting body.  Operating directors and financial directors have very different skill sets and different responsibilities. 

Make sure your operating directors are adding value by tapping into their previous experiences and expertise, while also ensuring your financial directors aren’t just reporting numbers back to their firm, rather are using their industry knowledge to help steer the company in the right direction.  It is a CEO’s job to let the proper directors provide the right value, which means if something isn’t going as well as it should, the responsibility will fall on the CEO to recruit new directors to plug the holes.

2. CEOs must manage expectations

It is the CEO’s duty to manage the board, and more importantly, their expectations. Understand what the board needs to evaluate progress, and deliver it quickly so you can all move beyond just reporting numbers and into strategically positioning the business and key objectives

One suggestion here was to discuss the financial aspects of the board meeting separately at dinner the night before so that the team can re-engage and refocus on the strategic aspects of the business the next morning.

3. Building cohesion is important

Board cohesion is built over time.  Sometimes board cohesion takes up to six meetings for everyone to understand the fiber of the board, their expertise, and how to get everyone to work together.  Try to get them working as a group quickly, and don’t be afraid to give the board members a homework assignment where they are forced to work together just to build that cohesion.  Continuously challenge your board to assess whether or not they work well together, and well with you as the CEO. 

4. Ensuring the right board makeup is critical

As the company evolves, there will need to be a change to the board makeup at some point. This will mean a CEO has to be good at convincing people to both join and leave the board at the appropriate times. 

Value from a $5M revenue board member is quite different from a board member who is used to working with $50M revenue companies or even publicly traded companies.  Make sure your board fits your company.

sausagemaking_1ceo16-1.pngIn the end, most CEOs agreed that building a great board wasn’t nearly as easy as putting investors together in a room, which came as no surprise.  It’s obvious, no one expects things like good board dynamics and great board directors to just fall into place.  But everyone agreed that turning your board into a strategic weapon is something that all CEOs should continue to zealously pursue.

If your company has a strong, strategic, and solid board, how did you go about accomplishing that?  On the flip side, if you don’t have a forward-looking board, have you thought about how much it may be impacting your business?

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