How to Choose the Best Board Members: A Simple Guide for Startups

by Alexandrea Roman on May 1, 2013 and last updated on September 4, 2018

Thanks to the quick development of technology and the willingness of angel investors, a simple idea can now evolve to a full-blown startup company. One moment, you’re in a garage or a dorm room tinkering on your laptop with your best friend or roommate, powered by nothing more than your dreams. Then, after a lot of hard work, some luck, and a few years later, you find yourself managing a promising business that has the potential to go places. Your ambition has grown bigger, too – you want to give Mark Zuckerberg a run for his money, land a spot in Forbes’ list of The World’s Billionaires, and most importantly, change people’s lives for the better through your startup’s success.

It’s at this stage that you realize you and your fellow co-founders can’t do it alone, not when there’s so much at stake and so many others depending on you. Running a successful startup takes more than making a good product or delivering excellent service. You’ll need the direction and guidance only a solid board of directors can give. But the question is, how do you select the members of your board?

Ultimately, only you and your fellow co-founders will know what’s best for your startup, but here are some considerations to keep in mind:

1. Presence

No matter how insightful and wise someone is, they’re useless as a board member if they hardly show up. Choose board members who will be able to attend most board meetings, whether physically or virtually. Distance shouldn’t be an issue when there are board portal solutions like Boardbooks, BoardVantage, BoardPad, and Convene that allow board members to access relevant meeting documents and collaborate with their fellow board members on their iPad, iPhone, or Android device.

2. Interest

Pick board members who are genuinely interested in your startup. Usually, they’re people whose businesses are aligned with yours. They ask questions, do their research, and talk to you about how your startup works. They treat being a board member as an opportunity to learn new things, and not as a job they’re forced to put up with.

3. Independence

Your board should remain objective when making decisions, so avoid selecting board members over whom you have control, and whose actions you can influence. You want your board to make the right choices for your startup in the most critical situations, even if it means going against your wishes.

4. Experience

CEOs with years of significant experience in companies similar to yours can use their knowledge to steer your startup in the right direction. They’ve already been to where you want your startup to be, so you can trust them to know exactly what they’re doing. You’ll also learn a lot from them in the process.

5. Technical know-how

Running board meetings are changing fast in the face of technology. Before, board meetings were done in the boardroom, and board members had to travel from various locations just to be able to attend. But now, they can join meetings remotely with the help of several solutions which include board portals. Thus, select board members who embrace technology. This will lead to more flexible terms for your board meetings.

6. Loyalty

Scott Kurnit, a veteran entrepreneur and board member, says that you should put your best friend on your board. They may lack in industry knowledge, but you know you can trust them with your life – and consequently, your startup. You know that they will make choices with your best interests at heart. If you don’t feel like mixing business with friendship, you still have to make sure to pick members who are loyal enough to your startup to earn your trust.

7. Harmony

Diversity in boards offers a better perspective, but it can also lead to more conflicts in opinion. But you shouldn’t worry about such conflicts if your board members are open-minded enough to agree to disagree. Make sure that your board members get along well enough with each other. They don’t have to be friends, but they need to have a good working relationship with one another at the very least to prevent professional differences from turning to personal issues.

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About Alexandrea Roman

Alexandrea is a social media specialist and blogger for Convene.

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