Selecting Board Members

Generally, boards have between seven and 15 members, but some small business boards function well with as few as five members. A typical makeup might include two founders, one to three investors, and one or two independent industry professionals.
The most effective boards aim for diversity, including age, gender, race, and professional experience. You’ll want to select directors who offer expertise in key areas that are most needed by your business, and who don’t necessarily mirror your thinking. The last thing you want is a boardroom full of “Yes men” because you won’t hear the kinds of innovative ideas that could push your business into new and exciting territory.
Aside from your own corporate officers and investors, consider a broad range of independent candidates familiar with your industry, including trusted mentors, attorneys, fellow entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, retired CEOs, educators, CPAs, marketing professionals, and financial experts. It’s helpful if one or more of your board members is equipped with previous board experience.
To promote fresh thinking, it’s a good idea to have some form of term limits for board members. The National Association of Corporate Directors recommends limits of 10 to 15 years. You may want the flexibility that shorter term limits would offer, but balance that against the effort it takes to replace termed-out board members with qualified people. Regardless of the terms you establish, it’s best to stagger terms to maintain continuity.

Game Plan

  • Define the key roles and areas of expertise you need in your boardroom, and then seek candidates that qualify for each role using your business and recruitment networks.
  • Create clear job descriptions for board members and define the roles they will play, similar to how you recruit employees, so prospective board members know what’s expected of them.
  • Determine how board members will be added to the board. Will they be voted in by management or chosen by current board members?
  • For additional tips on building your board, see this article.
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