Selecting Advisory Board Members – How Important is Family Business Experience?

Textbook theory will advise you to resolve your family issues before forming an advisory board. It’s most commonly referred to as “keeping the family baggage out of the business.” Ideally this should happen, but in real-life it rarely does.

Experience shows us that family issues usually spill into the business and this is just part of being a family business. You should diminish these personal issues as much as possible, but don’t expect to eliminate them entirely.

Ideally we would like to keep advisory boards free of these issues. In reality many of the family issues are intertwined in the business and are the cause for many of the obstacles in implementing new initiatives and strategy. Even though the major topics will focus on non-family issues, inevitably you will discover that family issues will creep in often as hidden issues. Many advisory boards are setup because the family has difficulty communicating, reaching consensus, and afraid of hurting each other’s feelings.

Understanding that we need to deal with some of these family issues with the advisory board will influence the makeup and chemistry of the advisory board members.

Importance of Family Business Experience

In addition to selecting members who can bring some new skill or experience to the board, also consider bringing in members who may belong to other family businesses. Even though family issues will be a minor topic, it helps to have members with some background in family business to better relate and be more patient with the family.

Choosing board members with some family business experience can help.

Trusting Others Outside of the Inner Family Circle

As family business owners, we are a trustworthy group. We tend to be easy-going and get along well with others.  Generally we are more sensitive to employees concerns, even treating them as extensions of our own family.

However, this trusting culture, can also leave us vulnerable to outside non-family executives who might take advantage of our unique corporate culture.  If we aren’t careful, we may find our business being taken advantage of by individuals who seek out closely-held businesses where they can gain undue power and influence.

We’ll Never Do That Again, But We Did

Our first experiences bringing in outside non-family executives were horror stories. These hiring mistakes happened to us, embarrassingly, not once, but twice.  The first instance was More…