John Babcock, a partner of Rustic Canyon (http://www.rusticcanyon.com/), talks about the important steps to integrate a new member to your board. Although sometimes an uncomfortable and hard process, these tips will ease the new board member integration flow.
- Introduce them to your company prior to the first board meeting
- Be clear about your expectations for the relationship
- Create a standard of competence for your company
When you go and you find a new outside board member, you want to really make sure that you’re taking advantage of them. And so, hopefully, you found someone who’s on the cover of magazines in your industry who’s really renowned in it. And I guess the first step I’d say is to really orient them into the business. And to do so, before the first board meeting, if you’ve picked the right person, they’re very important, their time is very precious. And after their first board meeting, they’re going to say, “Don’t worry. I understand how this works.”
And before that time, if they’ve agreed to join your board, they’re sort of morally obligated to go and take a half day to really learn about your business if you ask them to do so. If they say they’re not available for that, don’t hire them as a board member. If they’re not available for a half day, they’re not worth doing. So, you’re going to really try to teach them a lot about your business. And that’s doing a couple of things.
One is you’re really making an investment in them to make sure they know how the business is done. And in doing so, you are making clear that you expect to get some return on that investment. I think it’s a great time before the first board meeting to set clear expectations of what they should expect from you, how you’re going to work with them and to set expectations of what you know, you hope them to do as a new board member.
And the last one is to make sure that you really – in that orientation with them, you set really a high bar for how you do things that you know, you don’t just happen to show up for the first board meeting so to hope they’ll figure it out along their way. You’re setting a bar for, “Here’s how we get things done with this company. We’ll first rate in the way we do things and you can see that right from the first time you’re interacting with me.”
So, as a CEO for a startup company, it’s hard to take time in trying to work things with customers, you’ve got a lot of time with employees. And to take the time to train an outside board member feels like one more burden on the long, long list of things that startup CEO is going to do. And I think it’s really a worthwhile use of time because you’re going to be in the trenches with that board member for years and investment right at the front, I think pays great dividends.