I’ve written recently about the role played by boards that advise private companies. Every business I’ve ever run has had a board, some very much more helpful than others. When I think of my worst board members, they were either hyper-active, eager to take over the reins, or silent; I had one who unfailingly turned up—but never spoke in three years of meetings. So what should you look for in your advisors?
If you have investors, they need to be there but it’s important to balance their input with a rich range of experience. Investors (especially venture capitalists) often demonstrate irrational levels of self-belief, taking credit for their successes but rarely feeling implicated in their failures. Other board members therefore will need significant operating achievements under their belt and plenty of confidence. And of course it helps if they have great contacts in your industry or the markets you sell into.
Technical expertise and industry knowledge matters. Don’t assume all business is the same; it isn’t. The best board members come from business sectors similar to your own. I’ve sat on boards with highly successful entrepreneurs but their experience was so wildly different that they were both distracting and irrelevant.