Idea. Check. Funding. Check. Business Plan. Check. Board of Directors? The beginning of any journey, especially in business, starts with an idea.
By Linaeya Horn-Muller
Once that idea has been cultivated and a plan is in place, then comes funding, the board of directors, employees, office space, etc. It’s a misconception to leave the creation of the board of directors as one of the last to-do items. Whether you’re a big or small organization it helps to be proactive when it comes to forming the group of individuals who help to manage the activities of your business (i.e. your board). This board can be elected or appointed, and they are tasked with maximizing overall organizational value, while simultaneously protecting the interests of any key stakeholders.
When it comes to creating your board, you must keep in mind that not all boards (and their individual board members’ roles) are created equal. Such a sentiment is illustrated in the varying roles for the differing types of organizations. For-profit organizations have different goals than nonprofit organizations. For-profit organizations are typically more concerned about preserving the interests of any stakeholder, whereas nonprofits historically focus on raising awareness, while simultaneously raising funds.
Organizations might leave the board creation to the last minute because they believe that they are too small to need a board, or it’s not as important as other to-do items. While that might be deemed a pretty logical outlook, it’s not necessarily the legal outlook. If you are a corporation, you’re required to establish your board of directors right away. That said, your board doesn’t need to comprise of 10 to 15 executives or the most qualified leaders in your space, it can be a board of 1 to 3, depending on your state regulations. Being regulated at the state level also means that there is no standard set of rules that must be followed when creating your board of directors.
Even though there is no standard set of rules for creating your board, there are four basic tips that you should follow when architecting your board of directors.
- Bylaw Creation
- Identify Key Stakeholders (Shareholders) and Schedule Meetings
- Follow Board Meeting Best Practices
Your blueprint for success starts with a solid foundation. For your organization, the foundation is documentation and the filing of any articles of incorporation in your state. In order to become a corporation, you must file these articles and use them as the charter for your organization. This documentation identifies your corporation’s name, your incorporators, whether you’re for-profit or nonprofit and what your corporation’s purpose is. It’s important to mention that hiring a lawyer, during this stage, that specializes in setting up boards of directors can only help ensure that your foundation will be successful.
Every good blueprint needs walls to offer up support through the thick of it. A governing body is no different. For a board, the walls are your bylaws. Each rule, role, and responsibility of the board of directors needs to be agreed upon, formerly written down and upheld. The foundation might be the starting point, but your blueprint for success is nothing if the walls around you crumble. Some examples of bylaws are:
- Frequency of meetings
- How to elect and replace board-chair
- How to elect and replace board members
- How to determine director compensation (if you choose to pay your directors)
Identify Key Stakeholders (Shareholders) and Schedule Meetings
Once the foundation is set and the walls are built it is time to lay the roof shingles. For an organization, the roof shingles are all key stakeholders (and the board they create) who hold interests and/or assets in your organization. Once identified, these stakeholders should meet and it’s common that the first meeting topic is around your board, specifically the time and place where your board of directors are elected. When properly placed, the shingles create the roof that is tasked with keeping the rain and anything else that is unwelcome out, like the stakeholders who elect the board of directors who protect the company and those invested in it.
Follow Board Meeting Best Practices
After your board is established, the foundation is solidified, the walls and the roof are in place – the real work begins. Maintaining the board is just as difficult as maintaining your home. There needs to be set procedures in place in order to succeed at maintaining your board. Best practices include establishing a schedule for your board meetings and then implementing the best techniques in order to prepare for and facilitate the meetings is one example of following board meeting best practices in order to guarantee your success.
As aforementioned, board roles differ and so do boards of directors. It’s extremely important to implement a blueprint for success that aligns directly with your organization’s purpose and goals.
Linaeya Horn-Muller is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Global Governance Advisors. She plans and implements sales, marketing and product development programs, targeted towards existing and new markets. Linaeya specializes in SEO, developing and analyzing drip and target campaigns, website development and media buys. Linaeya is certified in Google AdWords, HubSpot Content Marketing, HubSpot Inbound, Life, Health and Variable Annuities, and is a Professional Level Athlete Development Specialist.