Why Every Business Should Have a Board

by Don Moore

Every business should have a Board. Period. That doesn’t mean it has to be a formal, legal Board of Directors. It could also be an Advisory Board (which can take many forms). Even formal Boards can be structured in a number of ways.

Each type of Board has pros and cons and we’ll explore these over time. In this article, I’m going to stick to the simple question of “Why have a Board at all?” The easiest way to answer this question is to ask owners who have Boards. “What does a Board do for you? Why go to the trouble?”

In their words:

  • “It is a blackboard – a place to discuss in detail, ideas, problems, direction, challenges, methods, strategies. I think of things all the time that I need to walk through and talk through with other business people. I need the “give and take” of discussion to help me be creative. It also makes me be more open minded. I can’t talk about a lot of these things with my employees and I need something with more depth than having a lunch conversation with a business buddy.”
  • “You know, it is a refuge – a place to talk to peers who are smart and savvy. They think of things I don’t.”
  • “The discipline is critical. We meet quarterly and I have to talk about the things that I am (or should be) doing to ‘work on the business.’ Before I had a Board, I didn’t do that, I just ‘worked in the business.’ It makes an incredible difference in the way I perform and the business performs.”
  • “My key managers have to do a presentation to the Advisory Board twice a year. It makes them sharper, it makes them realize that the things I expect are not just about keeping me happy. They are about good business. It makes them work to improve their skills because they know they are getting measured. They want to do a good presentation and they want to make progress…no one wants to come to a meeting and say that they didn’t accomplish what they said they would accomplish last time. It has raised the bar for all of us.”
  • “This Board is the best business continuity insurance I could ask for. If something happens to me, short term or long, the Board can step in. They know the business, my wife, the management team, the bank, the finances, the strategy, the business environment, etc. Equally important is that my wife, the employees and the bank know the Board and trust them. If I die or am unable to work for a while, they are the key to continuity with the least amount of drama until something permanent can be done.”
  • “There is a formality – they are like your boss – I feel like I answer to someone, even though they are mostly my peers. It helps me keep on target when I could let something slip; I know I have a Board meeting coming up and I said I would do things…now I have to actually do them.”
  • “My Advisory Board members are all real pros from many walks of business life: finance, accounting, marketing, business strategy, human resources and entrepreneurs. I would have to spend a fortune on consultants to get the kind of advice that I get from these professionals. In discussion, they each bring a different perspective on any given topic. I would have half the business that I have today if it wasn’t for this crew. I know that the hard way, I ran it for a decade without them.”
  • “Ugly honest. No one tells me what I want to hear. And they enjoy making sure I get the real truth. There have been days when I think, ‘I’m paying people to beat me on the head…what is with that?’ But it is worth every nickel.”
  • “Get a Board and listen to them. Otherwise, you are wasting your time and theirs.”