Friends and family are typically the first people you turn to for advice. It’s no different when you have a great idea for a new business or product. You’ll naturally test an idea with loved ones in order to gauge if it could be a success...
You trust their feedback – despite their bias – and this gives you the confidence to take your idea to the next level. Once those closest to you have weighed in, are you ready to make your idea a reality? Not so fast. You need to look beyond your inner circle for guidance. Every entrepreneur needs their own personal board of directors made up of those who are not emotionally invested to provide perspective that otherwise may be missed.
No one person possesses all the skills necessary to help you succeed. Like organizations with board of directors, your personal board of directors needs to exhibit diverse skills. You need multiple people in your corner to bounce ideas off, get perspective on an issue or roadblock, or possibly open doors for you. But who exactly do you choose?
Your personal board of directors should not be made up solely of people who have a stake in your success - if you listen only to your friends and fans you won’t grow. Here are five people to consider filling the seats of your personal board.
1. Someone you admire, dead or alive
What would Benjamin Franklin do? What would Gramps do? What would Arianna Huffington or Richard Branson do? Your personal board of directors does not need to be so literal; you’re not holding board meetings after all. Pick a historical figure, a relative that is no longer with you, or just someone you admire but don’t actually know.
This seat can even be filled by a book on start-ups or business growth - you are what you read. As you grow your business you’ll face many hard decisions, imagine what this virtual board member would say and what advice they might offer.
2. An accountant
You will not always have the right information to identify what your goals should be, or to develop a strategy to meet them, and that’s okay. Entrepreneurs are often so involved running day-to-day operations that they may not be able to see the whole picture. Having an accountant on your personal board of advisors can be like taking a step back, looking at the bigger picture and gaining a fresh perspective.
Accountants also have reach. Don’t underestimate how valuable it is to receive guidance from someone who has insight and knowledge across hundreds of businesses and industries. Accountants not only get to see the financial information of many businesses, but they also have visibility into best practices that are working for others as well as the mistakes others have made that have led to failure. Being able to have this insight and share information on what has or hasn’t worked for others is invaluable.
3. A devil’s advocate
Find the person who always challenges your way of thinking and recruit them to your board. This person should not be a naysayer or pessimist, but a challenger who will help you see that there is always another approach to consider. This board member should be strong in their views but not judgmental. By asking questions and making unemotional observations, this person will help you to act boldly.
4. Someone in a different type of company
You can learn a lot from people within your industry, but don’t overlook those outside your field. The idea of building a personal board is to include people who inspire you despite their different background, ways of thinking and approaches. A person who has seen success outside your profession or industry can help you see past the boundaries of conventional wisdom and to focus on your goals rather than what everyone else has done.
5. Someone who knows you well
A close friend, a trusted coworker, a religious leader or perhaps your mentor at your previous job or someone else you know and have had meaningful conversations with. This person should know your personality, ambitions and how you think. This person will let you vent when needed so that you can clear your mind and refocus on what’s important.
This is the person you trust unequivocally and who will hold you accountable to your goals and redirect you if you start to deviate from what they know is most important to you.
Every entrepreneur’s personal board of directors will most likely change over time. As you bring your idea to reality and grow your business, you’ll need different advice. So always be on the lookout for new board members. Talk to everybody and truly listen to what they have to say. These conversations will drive you to recruit the best board you possibly can on an ongoing basis. And remember, if someone on your board offers advice that doesn’t sit well with you, you don’t have to take it. Above all be true to your vision and trust your gut.