By Michael Tessler, Managing Partner
One day, you wake up and realize you are a CEO responsible for leading a global organization. This was my reality for a long time. In my experience, it was the best job I could imagine, leading a great group of professionals from all over the world. It was an honor to represent the company as the CEO and with the role came great responsibilities and some challenges.
As CEO, you may find yourself unable to discuss certain issues with your management team. On the other hand, you need more inputs and views on a decision. This can make the role of CEO a lonely one. This is why it is important to build a group of friends and advisors that you can discuss your business and some decisions with. One resource that many CEOs don’t realize is your board of directors.
Of course, the primary role of the board is to represent the shareholders and protect their investment. They have governance and statutory roles, but the board can be much more if you build it to be a true strategic partner.
At BroadSoft, we built a world-class board that helped me and the management team steer the company to success. Here are some best practices from my experiences:
Don’t Stack the Board with Friends
You want a team that will help you set the direction of the company and challenge you and your management team. It is critical that you build a team with different and complementary skills. Diversity is critical in order to get great input and feedback.
The Chairman’s Role is Critical
It is the job of the chairman to recruit, lead and manage the board members as well as giving board members difficult feedback or asking them to leave the board. This is a tough job, but one that is critical if you are going to have a high performing board team.
Board Meetings Should not be The Only Time You Talk
Formal board meetings are important for fulfilling the governance role as a board. You should also engage your board members in small groups and one on one between board meetings — discussing strategic questions, challenges, personnel, competition, threats and opportunities. If you have recruited the right board members, they will be able to give you great advice.
The Board Evolves Over Time as The Needs of The Business Changes
When you are starting off, the board will be dominated by your investors. As you grow the business — start to think about how you can recruit board members that will help you scale the business. Look for leaders that have navigated similar challenges that you are facing. Recruit board members that you feel comfortable discussing strategic issues.
Celebrate Success With The Board
We often celebrate milestones with our teams but forget the contribution of the board. You should treat the board like any other special team. Reward and celebrate the successes together.
Many CEOs forget the value that the board can deliver outside of its traditional role. Recruit the best and brightest to your team. With any team, make sure you bring people that can work together and have complementary skills.
I want to thank the BroadSoft board members for their excellent advice and friendship. Special thanks to Andy Geisse, David Bernardi, Douglas Maine, Eva Sage-Gavin, Jane Dietze, Jay Markley, John Gavin, and Paul Magelli. They were critical in our success.