Sent: July 14, 10:30 a.m.
To: Executive Team
Subject: New Advisory Board Meeting at Noon
Today at noon will be the first meeting of our new advisory board. I want each of you to be prepared to present and speak on where your department is, as it relates to the strategic plan. You will have five minutes each, so just the highlights and don’t go into detail, but be prepared to answer any specifics.
The meeting is mandatory. Sorry for the short notice, but I think my assistant forgot to send out the notice last week.
A great way to look like a real company is to have a board of some sort. An advisory board frees you from actually giving them any real authority, so it’s definitely the way to go. The reason you would want to have this is so that when people ask, you can say you have a board, which sounds very official.
The choosing of the board members is crucial. You don’t want anyone too smart or too bossy because that would undermine your leadership. Choose your friends who also want to enhance their reputations and may want something from you in the future—it’s a way for them to pay it forward.
Don’t bother with areas of the company that may need help and for which you might need an outside view. Go to the areas of the company that you are a real expert on. For instance, if you are a great marketer, make sure to have someone with marketing expertise on the board—although be very careful to make sure they understand YOU are the expert, not them. If you have a person who manages your buckets of cash, put them on the board as a little reward for what they do for you. You’ll never have to worry about them questioning you.
The key is loyalty. If anyone you choose questions you, boot them off immediately. You want this to be a feel-good meeting that reinforces your leadership brilliance, not one that questions it. As always, show up late, leave early, or skip the meetings altogether to show that you are in charge.
Make your team prepare for the meetings and let them think that the board actually has a say or that how each of them performs matters. The board can feel good about itself by criticizing your team members and putting them down; then you can double down on this and let them know how embarrassing their performance was. It’s great to have a board to back up your opinions and keep the troops in line. This way, everything you’ve been saying is constantly reinforced.
Paying your board can be tricky. You could pay them for meetings; but if they’ll do it for future equity, that might be a better way. Because, as you know, you’ll kick them off the board before they ever get to exercise their shares. Make sure the agreement states that the shares are of no value if they no longer serve on the board. On the other hand, paying them a good rate for attending the meetings lets them know how successful and generous you are, so it could look good for you too. Keep in mind, you could use both strategies depending upon who the board member is. If it’s someone you really want, pay them a lot, and if it’s someone who’s already a lapdog, just give them nonexistent shares. Make sure you impress upon them how “confidential” their arrangement is, so they don’t talk among themselves.
As for frequency of meetings, quarterly is fine as long as it fits your schedule. Make sure the entire team prepares rigorously with spreadsheets, updates, PowerPoints, and reports so that it literally consumes everyone’s activity once per quarter. This makes it seem very official. But if they don’t get to present or you have to change the board meeting for any reason, don’t sweat it. Just tell the team they are now more prepared for next time.
Remember, a board is purely an accessory; you don’t need them to augment your leadership. What they do is reinforce what you are already doing, like having a mirror on the wall that tells you what a great leader you are!
LET’S GET REAL
Having an advisory board or a true board is important for your business. But not how BB uses it. It gives you an outside perspective in those areas that are important to the growth and health of your business. Finance, acquisition, marketing, sales, systems, technology, and online and industry experience are just some of the many areas you could look to for a capable team of board members. Pay them fairly for their work and come to the board meetings with one or two questions or strategies they can help with. Get people who have been successful with whatever you are heading toward and take their advice seriously. Let your leadership team learn from them and lean on them for help. But most importantly, invite them to critique your leadership, your strategy, and your vision and take action on their feedback.