Over the last decade and into this one, startup businesses have come of age. Some will remain as small operators, but for many, the ultimate goal is to “scale up” and become attractive to larger investors, and when this happens, it is critical that you surround yourself with a team of like-minded people who are going to share your vision, your desire to succeed and will help you execute your strategy.
The problem is that the boardrooms of many startups are an assembly of the founder or founders and their key investors. In my experience, I find that some founders want a clone of themselves and it’s often difficult for them to “think out of the box” because of conflicting business priorities. This leaves them unable to think about how to target the market and seek out those golden nuggets of talent.
This means that board meetings will involve hours of conversations around future investment rounds, KPI achievement and figures, often driven by “men in grey suits”. There is no time for diversity, company values or purpose because these people, whilst very capable in their fields of expertise, have tunnel vision, with money being the light at the end of the tunnel.
When this happens, you don’t have the breadth of a boardroom with the right balance of independent thinking that will help you to build a business based on your core values, open new networks up and bring diverse thinking.
A Blended Boardroom
Having a variety of different voices around the boardroom table can be very positive as long as there is a common understanding of goals. You still need people who will share your vision and your values but who may look at different ways of approaching and handling business challenges. People who can provide lateral thinking to solving problems and people who will positively challenge your point of view but with the common goal of driving improvement.
Independent Board Members
A recent article I shared on LinkedIn looked at how independent directors could add value and redress the balance of the boardroom by replacing investors at the table and bringing new energy, ideas and talent. This provides a blend of experience from both inside and outside your industry sector and fresh eyes, which in turn, provides the energy to drive a business forward rather than inertia.
Different Faces for Different Phases
As your business grows, you will also find that you need to grow and strengthen your executive team as your business moves through different phases of maturity. Yes, it is most certainly an advantage to have investors sitting on your board in the early stages, but as you become established and you want to grow and innovate, you need to bring those fresh eyes in. People who put your values at the top of the agenda rather than the value of the business.
Once you expand and require employees, you will need to develop your HR strategy, you may want to bring new offerings to market, so you need a marketing strategy. An investor can’t give you all of these answers. When you are looking for new investors, a CFO will provide the insights and be able to demonstrate the financial outlook of your venture.
I am ready to grow my board, but how do I start?
You start by talking to people like me; I can listen to your plans, understand your vision and understand what your business values are, I can then help make recommendations and introductions to people that I believe would be the right fit for your organisation.
My advice is always – you can’t do it all by yourself, but with the right team, you can accomplish anything.
Sue Rees is an expert C-Suite executive search specialist with over 25 years of experience in Pharma, Biotech, Lifesciences etc.