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June 14, 2010

Personal Board of Directors

by mikediliberto

I’ve worked for a lot of startups during my career, and one of the greatest benefits that we received when raising venture capital (aside from the money) was often a few new faces on our board of directors.  The experience brought by our new board members was often invaluable in advising us with regard to strategic direction and even tactical decisions.  It is amazing, actually, how bad your decisions can be when you lack perspective. Having a board of directors is an important component of almost every successful company, and I’ve had great success in transitioning the concepts behind a board of directors into my personal life.

One of my most valuable resources has been what I term as my Personal Board of Directors.  Call it what you will, it is always beneficial to surround yourself with smart people.

One my first mentors, Kenny, was an absolute inspiration to me, as well as to many of his direct reports.  He was a great leader, and always seemed to have the right nugget of wisdom to help you solve a nagging issue.  In particular one thing that was fond of doing was to involve people with different experience or perspectives than his own to try to solve his own nagging issues; as he would say “If you want it done right, find someone who is better at it than you are”.  This was a lesson that I took to heart in creating my own personal Board of Directors.

The value of friendships and networking does not always immediately translate into financial gain; what you do often gain are connections to people whose perspective would be valuable at that time.  I have good friends with experience in diverse industries and disciplines, from medical doctors to directors of marketing, and time and again these connections give me the input that I need to get through a particularly tough issue or complex decision that I need to make.

Just as our company board of directors offers their experience to guide decision making, your personal board of directors can do the same in your personal or professional life.  Many connections that I have made in my personal and professional career have given me valuable input on my personal and professional decisions, and I continue to add to my network frequently.  Sometimes a quick phone call, email, or lunch meeting can solve a problem that vexed me for days;  You never know when that chance meeting will translate into much needed advice.

Some people have worked their way into permanent seats on the “board”; a good friend of mine that is a director of marking is my go-to guy for marketing advice;  a relative of mine advises a technology venture capital fund, his business advice has been invaluable to me; there are many more.  I don’t know where I would be without the sage advice of my personal board members.

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