I've Won 2 Emmys and Raised $350 Million. Here Are the Five Types of People I Credit My Success To These are the five kinds of people you need in your corner.
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Like many entrepreneurs, my company has a board of directors.
But I also have what I call a "personal board of directors." These people aren't contractually obligated to me, and they don't get paid. They're just a group of advisors and mentors that I've come to trust, and who I turn to when things get tough.
If you don't have your own personal board of advisors, I strongly recommend that you create one — but you can't add anyone to your board. I've come to realize that, like any good team, a personal board is most effective when it's built to compliment (often through directly opposing views!) everyone else's experiences.
I'm very proud of what I've accomplished: My companies, BondIt Media Capital and Buffalo 8, helps finance entertainment projects — and over the past 13 years, my team and I have won two Emmys, raised and invested more than $350 million of direct capital in to film, television, and music projects, worked with world-class creatives like Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and Robert De Niro, and exited a business to a major private equity firm.
But none of it would be possible without the five key members of my personal board. Here's the framework I now use — the five types of board members I see — that I believe would benefit any entrepreneur or business owner in their pursuits whether big or small.
Member #1: The Founder Operator
There is no question that there is something distinctly unique about founders, especially those that set out at a young age and battled to scale their organizations while still running the day-to-day in the present tense. The ability to candidly troubleshoot with my Founder Operator always leaves me recognizing that my wins and losses are shared experiences and that even the most hellish of days are shared with others who have chosen the path to build, scale, and manage companies of their own.
Operating a business in the present tense is fundamentally different than every other Board member outlined here below because quite simply they are in the trenches with the current economy, current workforce, current technology, and current global perspectives that the others just are not.
Member #2: The Investor
Unless you're lucky enough to found and scale a company with an organic / bootstrapped cashflow model, you're going to need capital from outside investors. I was fortunate to grow up with a father who was a professional investment and fund manager (mainly Fortune 500 public companies) which granted me early access to understanding the ways in which investors think about everything from business models to management teams, to leadership styles, to M&A strategies, to the requirements of disciplined financial reporting and communication to scale any business.
Speaking with my Investor often leads me feeling dispirited as it boils down all the immense hard work that entrepreneurs and founders do into very simple terms: are you creating value in the immediate term and therefore are interesting as an investment or are you losing value in the immediate term and therefore are interesting as a distressed / turnaround investment? While super clinical, this advisor helps me see the forest from the trees and re-frame my perspective to simply think bigger to push beyond the current state of the invest-ability of our enterprise by shaping a bigger vision and telling a bigger story to therefore attract investors at the level of their thought processes.
Member #3: The Past Exit
The Past Exit is the Board member who has started a business, scaled it as the leader, and oversaw the sale in a meaningful transaction to a quality buyer (both the size and caliber of the buyer are TBD based on each entrepreneur's own journey). Spending time with my Past Exit is exhilarating (although admittedly there are times of envy for them having already reached the pinnacle while still being in the daily warzone of running and growing a business).
My Past Exit gives me perspective around shaping a potential sales story, navigating capital conversations, and offering personal advice around what comes next in the event a sale does actually get done. For instance, I literally spoke with my Past Exit this afternoon as I write this from my conference room and he noted "I retired too young and I need to get a real job for myself, I'm bored" to which a thousand thoughts ran through my head around the personal mapping for how I want my businesses to serve me both today as I run them, in the future when I sell them, and afterwards once I have moved on.
Member #4: The Accelerated Contemporary
The Accelerated Contemporary is the personal Board Member that took me the longest to get comfortable with given that this is someone my age and in my industry who is several steps beyond where both I am as well as my company is in terms of revenue, impact, and market influence. It took me time to get comfort in taking advice from someone that many may consider a competitor or frankly hard to trust – but I found over time that smart entrepreneurial people more often than not want to surround themselves with other smart entrepreneurial people to listen, learn, and offer advisement while also seeking to find areas of synergy to work together.
My Accelerated Contemporary helps me see what is possible and how to unlock greater possibilities within our industry, especially when I am feeling defeated or have dark clouds swirling in my thought process. Additionally, I've been able to connect dots with my Accelerated Contemporary and set up deals and initiatives that would have been unlikely to structure had we not formed a deeper bond beyond just being contemporaries.
Member #5: The Big Sibling Legal / Other Industry Mind
The Big Sibling Legal / Other Industry Mind is the personal Board Member that offers support and guidance from an age not too close but not too distant in the form of what feels almost sibling-like. I grew up the oldest of three and so never had an older sibling but as I ventured out in to business I was able to connect with a number of interesting lawyers, bankers, investors, doctors, professors, etc., and I found that those within a 10 to 15 year age difference above me were able to offer both a personal and professional perspective that helped shape my thinking, strategy planning, and actions – often through calming my younger and more frenetic mind.
Today I speak with my Big Sibling Legal / Other Industry Mind personal Board Member on topics ranging from family life, raising children while running businesses, their greatest wins and losses to find learning lessons from for my own journey, and often a lawyer perspective (as one of my Big Sibling Legal / Other Industry Mind happens to be a seasoned attorney who has worked both within the big firms as well as running their own) to stress test my roadmap and help me think through the legalities of risks.