Every Great Business Needs a Board

Do you have a board of directors? Because you absolutely need one. Even if you’re just a freelancer, just solo-preneur, just a woman who loves her laundry more than most.

(Even if your board members don’t technically know they’re on your board!)

What exactly does a board of directors do?

A quick pop over to Wikipedia tells us “a board of directors is a recognized group of people who jointly oversee the activities of an organization.”

Fancy.

Does your business really need fancy?

Hell, yes!

Your business deserves people who challenge your thinking, push you toward ever more ambitious goals, and call you out when you’re being dumb. Especially if you are running this thing mostly by yourself with some help from a scrappy support crew.

The trick is, you have to be brave enough to give other people the permission to push you in this way.

What you don’t need: a conference room with a big oval table where people have to spend the first five minutes of the meeting adjusting the height of the chair so their feet touch the floor instead of dangling around like a toddler’s.

Just me? Okay, then.

Your board doesn’t even have to have meetings. It can be a virtual board that is activated on your [polite] command. After all, you’re the Chair.

Back to that fancy definition. Let’s unpack it:

A board of directors is a recognized group of people who jointly oversee the activities of an organization.

Recognized
Great boards are composed of people who can help your business grow. Often that means their members have talents, skills, or access that you do not. These people also have a vested interest in the success of your business. That interest could be driven by a number of things:

  • Financial incentive: They directly benefit when your business is successful
  • Altruistic incentive: They feel good about passing on the legacy of their expertise
  • Personal incentive: They just really like you because you invite them over for wine or your kids play soccer together or you were best friends in the 10th grade.

So take a look around and recognize who is in your life right now that would make a good board member.

Jointly Oversee
Let’s not get too literal here. I’m not suggesting you cede control of your business, your baby, the obsession that has you working late into the night. What I AM suggesting is that you take full advantage of the jointly and be open to the injection of diverse views into how you approach your business.

When it comes to the oversee part, think about that in terms of the Big Picture. It’s about 1,000 times easier to be objective about someone else’s business that your own. We are often just too close to the down and dirty details. Without external perspective, we can doom ourselves to playing small.

The world is way too big for that. So gather your fancy people, and give them some permission to jointly oversee your business greatness.

Organization
I’m a joiner I admit. I love to be part of something larger than myself. Clubs, choirs, academic associations, trade groups, the Junior League (of course!) and even–as long as they would have me–the PTA.

There’s power in a larger purpose, and in accountability. Cultivating a board of directors mindset transforms your business into an organization. Even if that business is still just you, yourself, and you. Even if all you ever want your business to be is yours and yours alone. A board will give it the weight of an organized endeavor, and that will make all the difference.

Because whether you’re out to make a buck, make friends, or change the world, treating your business like a business increases the odds that your mission will win. You can keep score in dollars or deeds (good ones, I hope).

No matter the currency, a board can help you create more of it.

Where to find great board members
Hopefully I’ve made my case and now you’re craving a board of your own. Here’s where to look for those precious resources:

Friends:
Certain friends may be just right for the job, so long as they know what you’re asking of them. Boards don’t care so much about your feelings as your results, and friends can often be too close, or care too much about our fragile egos, to tell us the real truth. But if you’re lucky enough to have the kind of friends who tell it to you straight, put them on your board.

Business Buddies:
A great source of kickass board members is fellow entrepreneurs. Cultivate your network, recognize who around you has a different skill set or perspective than your own, and then of course, be generous with offers to help, versus always being on the asking end of favors.

Coaches:
I have been working with a coach for a couple of years now and I swear by her guidance. Erika Lyremark keeps me focused, grounded, and doesn’t put up with any of my favorite excuses. She always takes the long view of my business and while she encourages me to experiment, she also manages to keep me out of shiny object syndrome. Did she have me at stiletto? Naturally. And although I was skeptical at first–shouldn’t I be able to boss myself around?– I’m over that now.

Way over.

When I published my first book, Blacklisted from the PTA, my board of directors consisted of publishing professionals, seasoned authors, and my closest friends. Together, they helped me design marketing materials, navigate the wild world of distribution, define a sales strategy, dream up the launch party, and so much more. My business benefitted from the combined mental power and positive energy of each of them, and I couldn’t repay them if I tried.

That’s a great board, helping me build a great business.

I hope you find yours too!


Lela Davidson

Does your small business // side hustle // passion project need a better story? I’d love to be on your board.

Please write to me and let me know what you’d like to work on. If I have room in my schedule, we can set up a 15-minute interview to see if we’re a good fit!

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