What We’ve Learned from Creating an Advisory Board
Years after Perfect Search was founded, we decided to formalize an advisory board. Through the creation and implementation of this process, we’ve learned a lot. One of my friends in Entrepreneurs’ Organization had helped other companies put together advisory boards, so he was a great resource for learning how to find prospective advisors and what kinds of backgrounds to look for.
His knowledge helped our leadership team through the advisory board creation process, so I’m here to help pass along some of the wisdom I’ve learned as well.
How to find potential board members
LinkedIn is a powerful tool. Yes, it’s a great way to quickly see how your high school rivals are faring, but it’s also helpful for the board creation process.
We knew we wanted to use LinkedIn to find individuals that could add significant value to Perfect Search. The criteria we were looking for included:
-Whether individuals’ values matched our own and our company core values
-A willingness to donate their time just for helping’s sake
-Gender and racial diversity
-Experience and backgrounds in our focus sectors of education and retail e-commerce
The beginning of this process was a bit more challenging because getting people to commit to a brand-new board with no one on it was a challenge.
To overcome this, our initial search was focused on individuals that we had existing relationships with. Thus, our very first advisor meeting was with only me and one advisor. Then, we continued the search for additional board members by leveraging our first advisor’s network to develop relationships with other potential advisors.
It can be difficult to continue dedicating time to a longer-term project like searching for the right board member fits. To ensure our leadership team was staying on track, we also developed a process where each director found potential prospects on LinkedIn on a weekly basis and we’d schedule meetings with them.
At first, we’d been told that we should only look to our existing network when searching for advisors. However, we felt opening this search up beyond our primary network could be beneficial.
It was. We still used LinkedIn and the above criteria to guide who we were looking for, but we expanded our net to include 2nd and 3rd-degree connections. Although our response rates were lower with this type of cold outreach, we were still able to get quality meetings.
What we’ve learned
Within a few months, we had developed an exciting board of individuals with significant experience in operations, sales, and company culture, along with experience in both of our sectors of education and retail e-commerce. I also personally liked each individual and enjoyed their company, which was important to me.
Now that it’s been over a year since the board’s creation, here are some learnings we’ve gathered:
Because we are a private company, we are not held to any formal structure. This means we’re not afraid to change up how we hold meetings. We’ve recently implemented monthly board check-ins to maximize the value of the board, check in on status updates, and become more efficient. This has proved to be an effective approach, and our status as a private company has allowed us to be flexible and nimble with this.
People are busy. We try to be as proactive as possible with our board members so that their time spent is valuable. Our team is dedicated to ensuring that their experience is worthwhile by spending time preparing introductions that could be valuable within their networks along with topics we should focus on in our meetings.
As much as I think we should have gone through this process earlier in my entrepreneurial journey, I did not have enough experience to attract the quality of advisors we have now early on. While some may say you should always try to establish a board as soon as possible, waiting worked out for us. My lyrics regarding business and entrepreneurship along with my experience level are constantly improving; I do not think I would have been able to convince our advisors to join our board had these meetings occurred in years past.
Developing and managing a new advisory board has been an amazing growth experience that has and will continue to be an important part of the success of Perfect Search.
Ajay Pattani is a lifelong resident of Chicagoland and is fiercely passionate about his white wine. If he could be a spokesperson for any product, it would have to be white wine. Ajay says if he could be good at one thing, it would be reading minds. If you could read his now, he’d most likely be thinking about white wine.