At Startup Boardroom, our Board Matrix workshop pushes the boundaries for owners/founders to think 3-5 to even 10 years ahead. It is about thinking on the business, not in the business. We then build an advisory board to add the expertise, connections and influence that are often missing from private companies and startups.
After all, just as the best footy team held the trophy at 6pm on October 1st, this year it happened to be the bulldogs, the board of directors is a team; leadership and collaborative qualities are an essential ingredient.
What advice do you have on setting up a board for the first time? What’s the key message you tell your clients?
There’s a lot to think about but probably the number one priority is to focus on diversity. Some may feel that a diversity quota is nonsense. At Startup Boardroom, we don’t, but more than that, quite simply, boards need to be curious, they need diversity of thought, not ‘group-think’. You need to assemble your board to reflect your stakeholders. With all due respect, does a cosmetics company know its customer if it has no female board members? Do we understand the workplace of today if we are missing 50% (millennials in 2020) of the global workforce? Does an Australian residential property developer have a Chinese board member?
If you’re a startup, then don’t just chase big corporate names that don’t have the entrepreneurial advisory hand on mindset.
Think about all your stakeholders. Recognise gaps in your arsenal and team and consider a seasoned investor with an IPO track record or deal sheet bigger than your shopping dockets. Think laterally. At Startup Boardroom, we strongly believe that diversity of thought equates to higher performance. Bring in a global mindset. Too often, Australia thinks there are 4 banks, 3 energy companies, 2 food suppliers all fighting over 24 million customers. You want to ask them where they have worked internationally, did they study abroad, where have they travelled? You want your board to be thinking global.
What does a company need to do to attract a good quality board member?
You need to truly understand your vision and articulate this just like you were doing your elevator pitch to investors. Experienced directors are willing to join the boards of companies where the founder has passion and energy and they are playing a big game.
You need to have more than a lean canvas and MVP. Timing is key so don’t go to market for an advisory board when the business isn’t ready. If you’ve hit a number of key milestones and you have traction, i.e. major enterprise sales, entered a new market, product pilot success, won some major awards, succeeded out of an incubator, about to accept investors, then this is a good time.
On the flipside, in your opinion what does a person have to do to get on the board of a high quality company?
High performing and in-demand directors either possess strong financial literacy and investment pedigree or they display a unique area of expertise. Domain expertise is of particular importance to many boards so become a thought
leader in your market. Know your voice and know what you don’t know. Everyone has a unique value proposition, so it is key to establish true clarity in your UVP to then position yourself to the best aligned industries, companies or cause. Focus on your passions; know your Gallup strengths because it is about who you are as a character that determines your effectiveness in the boardroom.
While boards will always require financial stewardship, a lawyer and governance, knowing the customer, marketing and digital governance as well as technology and risk, even human resources, are all disciplines that are required for effective boards today. Emotional intelligence and organisational dynamics are becoming increasingly important to be effective in the fast paced change boards are grappling with.
What are some key industry trends you believe entrepreneurs and potential board members needs to be aware of? How has this changed in recent times?
Enter stage left: disruption. An example of this, who would’ve thought Pokemon would be the talk as a major risk and opportunity to an ASX50 board over the past few months? With the transparency of social media, reputational risk is critical, so boards like Qantas are appointing the likes of advertising ace Todd Sampson.
Technology and digital governance. ANZ has appointed a Digital Advisory Board to advise the board and so for private companies and startups, having the technology and digital advice is both a key risk to mitigate but also potentially significant opportunity to deploy for scale.
What separates a good board of directors from an average one?
Courageous. Contrarian. Curiosity. Creativity. One needs to have the courage to ask the pertinent questions focused on the organsiation’s core purpose, stay the course, be bold. A contrarian argument will better challenge the status quo and steer influence towards better decisions. Curiosity is required to investigate behind the numbers and to think laterally, to question risk from a whole-of-stakeholder perspective. Creativity sees disruption as an opportunity, not a threat, to open new markets, embrace a digital strategy, or consider joint ventures and alternative investments.
What’s the best part about your profession? What drives you to do what you do?
To be brutally honest, the best part – people! I meet over 1,000 people every year. I’ve done, year in, year out for
almost two decades; listening to their dreams, failures, excuses, and their achievements. I’m not a yes man so I ask people the uncomfortable questions to probe and push the envelope.
So, what drives me is that one rare gem of a human. Sometimes, I might meet two in a week and they flip me off my chair. So what gets me out of bed? I love seeing passionate people achieve the extraordinary.
Thanks for your time Warwick
Startup Boardroom is a professional services and board advisory firm created by entrepreneurs and experienced directors for entrepreneurs. We help companies wanting to scale discover their board potential, and identify the ultimate board composition and expertise to help you as the company director deliver maximum company performance.
Future Directors educates the next generation directors to steer positive impact in the boardroom. We embrace diversity to empower emotional intelligence for effective governance in the new economy.
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