How to Use Your Board to Supercharge Growth
Get the right balance between intervention and indifference, and your Board can become a powerful tool for growth.
CEOs typically pull every lever within reach to help their companies succeed. Yet, too many consider their Board more of a challenge than a resource.
Data from Harvard Law School shows that the most expensive Boards of publicly traded companies can earn retainers totalling more than $2 million. Yet, you are probably underutilizing this costly resource. Change that fact, and you may be able to supercharge your company's growth.
I have served, or am serving on, multiple Boards for everything, from fast-growing companies, to multi-billion-dollar, publicly-traded behemoths.
Your Board members bring their reputations to the business, which serves as a form of endorsement. That makes them valuable helpers in motivating your team. As credible and experienced business people, your Board members may have sufficient eminence to support your efforts to keep your team confident, calm, and mission-oriented. Invite Board members to speak at sales kickoffs, company retreats, coding days, and other company events.
Ask them to explain why they believe in the company.
At Juwai IQI, we have an executive board, which means Board members also have management responsibilities and work very closely with a few functional senior managers. That makes it easier for the Board to coach and develop the management team. Coaching is vital because even the best executives can be overwhelmed at times by the challenges facing a fast-growing company.
Your Board can also help with recruiting, an all-important, and at times, all-consuming initiative. It is a frustrating process that can cost 30 per cent or more of each new hire's salary. Even the best companies have difficulty finding recruits with excellent tech skills. The talent pool seems vanishingly small. Hiring the wrong person means lost time and money.
At Juwai IQI, our Board has helped recruit at least four senior team members. We also rely on Board members to help sell the company to candidates. They can explain their vision for the future, the contribution the new hire can make, and their personal belief that the role will be a career-builder for the candidate.
The quality and mindset of your people play a significant role in whether you succeed or fail. Get your Board's help with this essential part of your business, and you will be well on your way to supercharging growth.
Partners and Customers
The members of your Board will have worked in different industries and at different companies in the same industry. They can introduce you to potential partners and customers. They can even accompany your people to meetings and assist in bridging the gap in negotiations. That makes your Board one of the first places you should turn when your management team needs advice about strategy, technology or operations.
At iCar Asia, the Board and management thrash out strategy at joint, half-yearly sessions. Disruption requires breaking and rebuilding businesses to ensure fast growth and meaningful change. That sort of strategic shift is only possible with very close collaboration between Board and management.
At one of iCar Asia's half-yearly strategy meetings, we discussed how to expand from advertising used cars to also handling leads and transactions. After this session, the management team was able to implement a plan that has significantly increased audience, leads, and revenue.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Your Board can play a more active role in success than is commonly thought. When you have a growth-oriented, proactive Board, however, you run the risk of the Board becoming too involved in management. You must set boundaries. Even the most well-meaning Board can suffocate growth with too much governance.
A rule-of-thumb indicator is this: take the papers from a recent Board meeting and count the pages that deal with either the past, the present or the future.
For many Boards, the most pages by far deal with past performance: financials, risk reports, etc. Only at rare, lucky companies do the present and future get the most attention.