Day 4: Who Should be on My Board?

Who should be on my board?  Some of you have by-laws that will dictate who can be on your board.  But remember by-laws can always be changed.  The usual suspects should be on the board.  Utilities and banks are the first to turn to.  These two businesses have the strongest attachment to the community.  If a utility company becomes unhappy with the community they can’t up and move their wire and pipes.  If they want to grow they have to help their communities grow.

Economic development is a team sport.  There needs to be a broad representation on the board.  Someone from large business, small business, healthcare, education, government, professionals like lawyers or accountants. Your board members need to be the very top person in their organization.  You will need to pull resources from your board and so you need the person that calls the shots in their business.  Board of Directors should serve as an advisory board.  They should not be making calls on the day to day activities of the staff.  If a board member begins to question why you purchased an iPad, it is time to replace that board member.          But it could be a sign that the board does not feel you are doing your job and maybe you should begin to look for a new job.  After all economic development professionals are better dressed migrant workers.  Managing a board is actually the toughest part of the job.  But if you get the right people in place it will certainly make it easier.

I have managed around twenty different boards over the years.  They are all so very different.  You need to train board members.  You should hold a formal training for your new members.  The reason for the training is it sends a message to the board member that this is an important job.  It also sets up the expectations for both you and that board member.  While it has not happened to me, I have had friends that moved on to new jobs because the Board Chair and the Execs personalities clashed so much there was no chance that the two would be able to work things out.  Sometimes it is unavoidable.  Its not the end of the world.  But make sure you have someone you can talk to while you work through this conflict.

Over the years we have had clients that have huge boards, like 40 members.  That is way too many.  Fifteen is just about right.  An executive committee should do most of the heavy lifting for giving direction to the organization.  There are some boards in a community that are considered to be the board to be involved with.  The economic development board should be one of those boards.    Next: What do I need to know?

Next Previous