Depending on your model, it’s really important to have a good balance of people and skills across your business: age, gender, ethnicity, personality, skills and intellect – to name but a few.
Virtually every business person has a different view on the direction the business should take and how the business should be run. If your business is only run by a particular ‘type’ of person, then you may find that you struggle in the marketplace … yet you probably won’t even realise why.
Traditionally, boards were made up of people experienced in the business’ particular sector, and of a similar age. They were also, and sadly often still are, male dominated. Nowadays though, boards should appoint directors whose age and ethnicity varies; correct gender imbalance; and bring in people with experience in specific skills that are missing from the current board.
A business set up and run by creatives may need some commercial experience on board; a high street store needs to have someone on board who is experienced in ecommerce and multi-channel retail; a company based somewhere as multicultural as the UK needs their board to represent the diversity of their target market; a large firm with a male only board of directors needs a kick up the behind. You get the idea.
One way balance the board effectively is to introduce non-exec directors to the team who, whilst being board members, are not part of the executive team. Non-exec directors can bring a wealth of experience and a range of essential skills that may otherwise be lacking, and they’re a great way to rectify a lack of diversity within the board.
When it comes to startups and small businesses, one of the barriers to entry to bringing on board a non-exec director can be cost. However, nowadays thankfully, there are a number of non-exec directors who are interested in helping a new/small business grow and who are prepared to adjust their pricing accordingly. Another option is to look for a non-exec who is just starting out, as again their fees will be lower.
The lack of balanced management is particularly evident in the tech sector. If you run a tech business, whose product is aimed at a particular non-tech user base, you need someone to represent that user base within your business – someone who thinks like your (potential) customers do. I’ve come across countless tech businesses where computer programmers design the user interface for a product intended to be used by non-tech people (for example salespeople), and then get really irritated when their clients continually complain that they can’t use, or don’t like the interface. It’s not rocket science. If your product’s target market is salespeople, then get someone on board from a sales background, who understands how sales people think/act.
There are other ways to balance your team of course. You could appoint an executive director, hire a business advisor or consultant, and of course recruit staff to join your team who bring a balance to the company. However you do it, you need to look at who is going to buy your product or evangelise your cause/business and then balance your team accordingly.