Al Hammond

Why Entrepreneurs Should Seek A Strong Board of Directors

Entrepreneurs like freedom to control their own destiny.

Indeed, as Ricardo Levy recounts in his book, Letters to a Young Entrepreneur, that urge to be free drove him from the comfortable ranks of a large corporation to start his first new company. Why then would an entrepreneur want to shackle that freedom by creating a powerful Board of Directors? Yet that is what Levy recommends-build a world class Board, make it larger than you think is necessary so that no one voice can dominate, and do it much sooner in the evolution of your company than you might expect.

The trick is to see the Board members both as bosses and ultimate decision-makers, and as teachers or experienced guides that can supplement the skills and knowledge of the entrepreneurs. But it requires spending the time and effort to build bonds of respect and trust that allow the latter part of the relationship to flourish. Levy relates numerous instances when those bonds enabled him to overcome setbacks or navigate very difficult issues on behalf of his companies.

Equally unusual is Levy’s suggestion of adopting an explicit strategy to build an entrepreneur’s inner resources. He argues for setting aside a quiet time every day, to meditate or use other means to quiet the internal dialogue and self-absorption with the many pressures that are the daily lot of most entrepreneurs. Levy sees this as a means to deal with absorbing uncertainty, of being able to think about how others may view things (often critical to managing Boards or concluding business negotiations), of preparing for critical decisions.

It is just such orthogonal thinking that makes Levy’s book a refreshing departure from the standard guides to business and entrepreneurial success, which coupled with his willingness to respond to questions and mentor young entrepreneurs on his blog make this a potentially valuable resource for BOP entrepreneurs.