Leveraging Your Board for Strategic Perspective
I have often said that overseeing a growing company is like being a parent to a child. They have their challenges at every stage of their growth. They are cute and cuddly at first and they need us to take care of their every need. Then, as they progress and grow, the challenges change, they get more difficult to predict and unwieldy to oversee. Once your company reaches an advanced stage of growth, with over 100 employees and 100 million in top-line revenue, you are going to need to make sure you have the supporting team to tackle the challenges you face as you advance and scale even further. So, you need all the good help you can get!
Besides the executive leadership team you oversee, you are probably going to need a board of advisors at this stage. You, as the CEO, have worked diligently to enhance your effective and consistent communication. You have learned that your leadership style must help create synergy by connecting folks to one another, including healing rifts between people from time to time and also motivating people when trouble or other challenges present themselves. So, the selection of your board is an important piece of this structure you have constructed. If you start from scratch to build the board, that's great, but often, we must learn to work with the one that is already in place. One of the key roles of your board should be in the participation of your strategy.
Strategy is something you cannot compromise on, especially in gaining clarity about it. Making assumptions about strategic clarity tends to backfire. Your executive team is looking for direction because their jobs, as is yours, are very demanding. You and your team live on a different level than the rest of the organization and it takes a great team to grow and scale smartly. All of your assumptions as they relate to your Core Purpose, Vision, Core Customer, and their needs, and your products and services all need to be challenged. This forces you and your team to prove out with evidence and facts your assumptions and plans. This is where your board of advisors comes in as a strong asset of perspective. In addition to having your advisor and coach as an outside voice and perspective, your board of advisors should play that role as well.
At this point of your company's growth, you must master your sandbox clearly and definitively. You need a deep understanding of trends that have bearing on your business. Your organization, through its growth, is becoming more and more visible to your marketplace. Your competition has you in their sights and is working more diligently to steal any market share from you they can. Your strategy must become better focused and better executed. You must think out very carefully the next 2 to 5 years based on where your market is headed, where your customers are headed, and what technology changes you might expect.
Your board of advisors can help provide some outside perspective and also, they can help you identify new market opportunities. Without some outside, objective viewpoints, you risk not seeing the bigger, strategic picture. This can lead to some "too little, too late" regrets later on. if you already have a board, you may want to review its make-up. It may or may not be sophisticated enough based on your needs today. It may have been really good for the smaller version of your organization, but now you need different help. Your advisor and or coach can also be an asset in this area of review. A proper balance of outside perspective can help challenge your thinking and your viewpoint.
This critical strategic area of your board's involvement in strategy should center around helping you understand critical decision which has a long-term impact. They can also help through their previous experience and involvement with other companies with how quickly change can occur and the proper preparations for change, re-reading situations, and perhaps even changing again.
In choosing or evaluating your board of advisors, especially from a strategic perspective, consider these factors:
What skillsets are you missing from your executive team that could be filled by a board member?
Are you needing any people who think more innovatively or are creative problem solvers?
Do you need more challengers? People who can challenge you and your team to be accountable in a proper, healthy way?
Do you need diversity of thought, opinion, and experience?
Do you need sales management and sales experience?
Do you need more of a marketer?
What about HR advice?
Do you need more industry experience? Perhaps someone who has been in a lot of winning battles before?
Do you need capital-raisers or people with strong bank connections?
As you can see, I am listing a variety of categories and experiences. This is an opportunity for you to put in place a group of advisors with wide and varied skillsets and experience to better help you think through your coming strategic and growth challenges. Of course, it's somewhat simpler if you are choosing this group from the get-go, but hopefully, this can also help you evaluate what you have in place now and how to possibly proceed with building on it or better utilizing your board. Remember, your board is there to share your perspective and advice, not to make decisions and not to run the company. That is your job. It's also your job to properly leverage your board for a better strategic perspective with the aim to grow and to continue the scaling process successfully.