When things at your company are going well, your relationship with the board is going to be great. You can go into the quarterly meeting and explain that your team is crushing it.

Everything's fun, and everyone feels good about the future. Applause, take a bow, curtain.

But when times are tough and the company is struggling, your relationships are suddenly much more crucial than they were while everything was running smoothly. That's when it's important to have strong, supportive board members you can depend on.

Are they able to give constructive feedback? Will they be understanding? What does your relationship look like when the numbers aren't great?

Not everyone ends up with the board of their dreams. And if you don't put in the initial work to find the right people, those relationships can quickly turn sour when things go wrong.

Here's how to go about finding the best board members for your company:

Decide what type of personality and background you want before asking anyone to join.

The most important part of building a board is understanding your own skillset.

What are you good at? Once you've answered that, figure out which two or three skills are essential to a successful business, but aren't necessarily in your wheelhouse. You're looking for board members who fill those gaps in your own knowledge and skill set.

Our board at ThirdLove has a pretty common structure. It's made up of the two co-founders, two institutional investors, and two independents.

The co-founders are myself and my husband, Dave. The independents are Lori Greeley and Andy Spade. Lori spent 24 years at Victoria's Secret, and she brings us the knowledge of a traditional retail industry player. Andy is co-founder of the Kate Spade brand and a dynamic creative force. Rounding out the six are two venture capitalists from our financing rounds.

Everyone brings something different to the table, and that's the mark of a good board.

Understand it's a courting process.

Finding the right board members for your company can be a bit like dating. You're putting yourself out there, spending time with a person to decide if they're right for your company.

During this process, I would definitely take the time to get references for any potential members. Hop on the phone with other founders who've worked with them before to ask about their personalities and how they acted on the board. How did they respond when times were tough?

But remember, just like dating, this is a give-and-take relationship.

You can't expect to send off an email asking someone to be on your board, and then wait for them to reply, "Sure thing." You have to get them excited about your business and show them they'll be benefitting from this arrangement, too. For example, Lori is currently the CEO of Serena & Lily, and Andy owns and runs Sleepy Jones. If you look at those businesses, you'll see there are a few strategies they can likely learn from seeing ThirdLove's business from the inside, out.

If it's the right fit, the relationship will be a two-way street.

Leverage each board member at different times.

If you've built a diverse board, you'll find there are times when each member is able to help with certain aspects of your business. They'll be there to offer advice for specific scenarios, like recruiting efforts, marketing campaigns, or your next financing round.

For example, we recently launched our To Each, Her Own campaign, and Andy is going to come in and help us analyze and understand what we've learned from it so far. How are we going to push the campaign forward into 2019? What ideas are best for that creative strategy?

We know each person is going to add value at different times, which is why we asked them to be a part of our board in the first place.

Make the most of everyone's time.

You always want to keep your board in the loop, but there's a fine line between doing that successfully and wasting their time.

For instance, we send quarterly investment emails that keep everyone up-to-date with what's happening at the company. So in our board meetings, we spend more time on bigger strategic questions or issues the company is struggling with. That allows us to have more focused conversations on the issues that really need all of our attention.

So much of the relationship is based on effective communication, and you should be cognizant of your board members' time. But if you're not comfortable reaching out to them when you do need something, or you think they won't respond, then they're probably not the right person for your board.

Published on: Nov 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.