Many startups, even before they receive their first round of funding, have some sort of board – may it be a proper board of directors or an advisory board. Moreover, latest when you receive institutional financing you will find yourself with a board.
Sadly many boards are not managed all that well and end up delivering little of the value they could. As someone who sits on a couple of boards (and sat on a whole bunch more), ranging from seed level startups to publicly traded companies, I can attest to the often untapped potential in those relationships.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review talked about how Netflix redesigned these interactions. It is good food for thought – understand that a board (regardless if it is an advisory board or proper board of directors) is there to serve you and the company, so make them work.
A couple of ideas I have seen work well in the past:
If in doubt – over-communicate. Your board members are not part of the day to day operations and lack insight into details and context.
Assign tasks and deliverables. Remember: They are here to work for you and the company.
Schedule regular meetings and be diligent about them. Find a good, steady cadence and do not move the meetings.
Make them read. Before in-person or phone meetings, send your board all the information they need to be well prepared and make it clear that they have to read it.
Make them work. If they don’t – they might not be that valuable for your company and you should consider finding someone else.
A well functioning and working board can make a huge difference – it does require work though; both on your end as well as for your board members.