In Part 1 of this blog, I touched on the importance of selecting people for your Board who have worked with first-time CEOs before, as well as asking your Board members for help on both -- big things and small. Below are 3 more tips for building a functioning Board of Directors with people who will help grow your brand and deepen your experience.
3. Not all money is equal shades of green
Create a Board that is heavily weighted toward independents and people who have built companies themselves -- relevant to the stage and industry of your company. Find at least one person who has founded a company and grown it from scratch. Then find someone else who has exited at the stage that you hope to exit (maybe that's an I.P.O.; maybe it's a sale.) If you're trying to raise very little money and bootstrap, find someone who has grown a company by doing just that: raising very little money and bootstrapping.
It's also important to pick people who are experts in the space you are working in. You're sure to run into challenges -- pricing product, customer acquisition, scaling -- and if you have investors and Board members who already know the industry better than you, as well as all the key players in it, they can help navigate these waters better than you'd be able to do alone, as well as make important introductions.
4. Date before you get married
Putting together a Board is a lot like polygamy -- you're getting married to multiple people all at the same time. If possible, you should try to work with someone for at least six months first before you decide to commit fully to having them on your Board. Over a six month period, engage with that person over the phone, get lunch, discuss big and small problems. See how they react when you ask for help, and start to get a feeling for how you get along and collaborate.
5. Attracting talent
Everyone has a dream of who they want on their Board. Sure, some are unrealistic, like Bill Gates or Elon Musk. But, most of the people you want are actually quite feasible to get. How? You have to wrangle them in and get them excited that they can add value and help. Sure, these people are so highly coveted that they have their pick of anything they want to do. So you need to give them a reason to join your Board.
Maybe you have a personal story to tell that will resonate with them (like someone in their family who will benefit from your product). Each of my Board members had a personal reason as to why they picked me. Part of that was a deep desire to help more women entrepreneurs succeed, in no small part because some of my Board members have daughters of their own, and see me as a trailblazer for them. Just like building a team, each person joins for a different reason and has a personal connection to company or founder. A board member is no different. Your job as CEO is to figure out what that connection is and then make it work to your advantage.
6. Serendipity opens doors
Also, remember that serendipity opens doors. I met the most recent addition to my Board, Julia Austin, on a plane going out to Nantucket for a conference. I started asking her for advice as we were scaling our tech team, as that's an area she was a master in, and for almost a year before I asked her to join, she had essentially taken me on as a mentor. There was no guessing involved when I asked her to take that seat; I knew she was incredible, that we shared a great deal of mutual respect, and that my company needed her help.
You need to be really thoughtful about building your Board. Start with the ideal state of what you want to get out of your Board, reserve two seats for investors, and fill the rest with people who will help grow the brand and deepen your experience. I view the people on my Board -- investors and independents alike -- as my lifeline. I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't have a Board that helped me, and by extension, my team, execute on ZappRx's big idea.
About the Author
Zoë Barry is the founder and CEO of ZappRx, a healthcare technology company that simplifies the complex process required to order specialty medications. Since founding ZappRx in 2012, Zoë has raised $42 million in funding and the platform has been implemented into academic medical centers and large clinical sites around the country. In addition to ZappRx, Zoë is passionate about helping founders launch startup companies. She currently advises 3 startups, including MyLingo, Remy, and Metiri. Zoë was awarded Inc. Magazine's 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 list in 2015, Boston Business Journal 40 under 40 in 2015, and Medtech Boston's 40 under 40 Healthcare Innovator in 2016.