Smart boards.

Author:Sloan, Richard
Position:Quality - Effective use of board of directors

Have you ever wished that you could have someone who is really smart, experienced and committed help you with a key decision for your business? How about a team of people with these qualities who could brainstorm and advocate the best course ahead for your company? If so, consider creating an active board of directors.

Whether your company is just starting up or is very mature, whether big or small, an active board can play a very useful role. Board members can bring assets like wisdom, creativity, connections, accountability, credibility and high standards to your enterprise.

There is no replacement for great day-to-day management, but when those managers reach out to an effective board of directors, great achievements can be made. Using the counsel of board members, new and inexperienced CEOs learn to navigate management and financial challenges that otherwise would have been the undoing of the company. First-time founders of companies draw upon the advice of seasoned board members and literally skip right past years of experimentation and likely mistakes. Businesses that have been in a "slump" are challenged by their committed board members and, as a result, have redoubled their resolve and gone on to new heights.

Five to seven people

Usually, a manageable size for a board of directors is seven people or less, five being most common. Depending upon your objectives, one of the smartest things you can do is complement "insiders" (existing stakeholders) on the board with people who are "outsiders" (who bring objectivity and fresh thinking).

To figure out how to assemble an effective board of directors, the key is first to identify the weaknesses of your business. Maybe it's on the customer service side, maybe the innovation side, or maybe marketing or operations. Whatever it may be, create a list of skills and capabilities that would address your problems and enhance your business. Then begin to write down categories of types of people who have the knowledge or resources to fill the weak spots in your business. Distill it down yet another level to specific names of people who are in those categories. Write down some hard-to-get-to names in addition to some people who are more attainable.

The fun part comes when you have to figure out how you're going to get their attention and get them interested...

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