Your organisation means a lot to you, and running it successfully isn’t easy. Sooner or later you’ll be looking for some help, and eventually you’ll need a committee to oversee much of the company’s growth and direction. You, as the founder, will need to choose these people - and that’s difficult!
Finding the right people, who share your vision and will competently help grow your organisation, takes a lot of time and attention. Here’s five traits to look for in the people who may guide your company to new heights.
This is the obvious one. You need people who know their fields. Your board has a number of roles to fill, but something everyone on it needs to be able to do is offer sound advice. You might think it’ll be fun to put your “bestie” on your board, but if they don’t have the business experience to offer good advice and make sound decisions, it might not be a great idea.
Remember though: if you are running a small animal welfare charity, you need people who have experience with the animal welfare industry - a real estate agent might make themselves seem perfect for the board, but what experience can they really bring?
You need a board full of people who are enthusiastic about your organisation. People who believe in your mission and are happy to work towards fulfilling it. If you ever get the suspicion that somebody wants to join the board for personal interests, or they’re just disinterested, they may not be the right fit for you. Be aware: if somebody is very passionate about your industry, there’s a high chance they’re already involved in it in some way. This could lead to conflicts of interest, whether intentional or not. Get in front of any problem by ensuring you have conflict of interest policies in place.
Nobody likes a ‘yes-man’. The most valuable thing a board member can tell you is “that’s a bad idea.” It’s a good practice to make sure your board knows that this is what you want from them - otherwise they may just go along with whatever the rest of the board suggests and never speak up. The ability to identify problems and inform the rest of the board will serve your organisation more than any other.
Running a business or committee presents you with new problems every day. Problems you might never have anticipated. Filling your board with people who can develop inventive, strategic solutions is an obvious move. They’ll be able to see angles and ideas you’d never have thought of, and make decisions that move your organisation forward in new and effective ways.
Diversity is more than just gender, race, religion, or politics. While those are important, you’re looking for individuals who can bring different talents (related to your industry, of course) to the table. If you’re going to need to look for funding, find a salesman. If you’re going to deal with small businesses, finding somebody who owns one can be a big help. Having a lawyer and an accountant is self-explanatory. Keeping your board diverse is also another form of creativity: people with different backgrounds see the world differently, and will recognise problems and solutions that others might have missed.