Early Steps toward Effective Board Relationships

“A man [or woman] only learns two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers

medium_8005655755Entrepreneurs at the Concept Stage may be tempted to think that learning how to effectively work with a board of directors is a future priority that can be postponed.

We don’t necessarily agree.

Most entrepreneurs aren’t born intuitively understanding how to work with a board, or even how important a skill that is.

In fact, some entrepreneurial instincts—independence, self-confidence, tenacity, and even passion—can run counter to relationship building with a board.

Serial entrepreneurs know from experience that a CEO’s relationship with a board of directors will be among the most important relationships for the company and for them personally. Many first-time entrepreneurs don’t.

We’ve seen more than one who had to learn this lesson the hard way.

That’s why we believe that laying the foundation for effective board relationships begins long before the company ever has a board.

So what can an entrepreneur do at the Concept Stage to start building this skill?

  • Take Will Roger’s quote to heart. Be willing to listen to people who know more than you do. It’s a great habit to have.
  • Seek out two or three individuals that you know, trust, and who have knowledge and experience that can help you build a better company (not relatives or friends.) Ask them to serve as advisors to your company.
  • Meet with these advisors periodically with a well-defined agenda. This is a time to practice working in a board-like arrangement.
  • Observe what works and what doesn’t. When communications don’t go smoothly with an advisor, take it as an opportunity to learn how to reset a relationship. If thing become too contentious or combative, take that as a lesson in how not to operate when you have a real Board

Learning how to be comfortable and effective in a give and take with advisors is significant step toward learning how to work with a board. It’s a chance to practice like you want to play.

photo credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page via photopin cc