A Board of Directors, of course, has a lot more authority than a less formal Board of Advisors. But the approach is the same.
First, you must want this relationship to be successful. Those folks on the other side of the table aren’t your enemies, your rivals, or anything else. Assume you are all there for the same reason: to help your company succeed.
How do you do that?
Listen to what the board wants (e.g., financial targets)
Listen to their suggestions (e.g., the different levers to pull to achieve your goals)
Sounds obvious enough, right?
But let’s think about the reality of working with a group of people who are, in effect, giving you input on how to run your business.
You’ve got the person (or people) on the board who makes you roll your eyes—as soon as they open their mouth to speak.
There’s the one who has been there, done that and now thinks they have all the answers.
There’s the one with the pet issue they shoehorn into every single conversation.
There’s the one who fights you on 1% of margin like a dog with a bone.
Your tendency (perfectly natural) is to discount these individuals—and their opinions.
In some cases, you’re right.
It’s a similar process to receiving feedback from your team. Listen first. Don’t dismiss anything out of hand.
And then: question everything.
The board doesn’t run your company. You do. If you let your board dictate too many of your actions, you’ll create chaos.
The path to avoiding this haphazard approach, though, is on you.
You must prepare.
Before every meeting, anticipate every question you can think of that your board may ask. Pull together the data. Work out your narrative.
This prep will help you avoid rabbit holes, strengthen your relationship, and help unearth those nuggets of wisdom that can significantly improve the growth of your business.
Don’t capitulate. But don’t shut them down too soon, either.
But in the instances when you’re wrong…you’re missing out on absolute gold.
By the way: those board members who are seemingly obsessed over 1% of margin? More times than not - they’re right.
Again, this advice applies to any advisors you work with. People work in mysterious ways, and the best input sometimes comes from unexpected places.
Quarterly strategic sessions are a great avenue for assessing and incorporating board feedback into your future planning cycles. Our consulting team can help you lead these strategic sessions (and make sure you’re well-prepared to get the most out of your board).