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Building your own board(s)

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HSBC’s own insight and experience tells us that getting in front of the right people is vital for the success of any entrepreneur, but we know that for women, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. We spoke to CEO and Founder of Landit, Lisa Skeete Tatum – to gain tips on how to get the audience and attention you need to succeed.

Key takeaways:

  • No one builds a company alone. Cultivate a support network to help you throughout the process.
  • Three different types of boards are critical to success: your board of directors, your advisory board and your personal board.
  • Make sure your advisors are truth tellers and are able to tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

Statistics show that 48% of women in business lack competent advisors to guide them through entrepreneurship1. Lisa Skeete Tatum, CEO and Founder of Landit, decided to take matters into her own hands and build her own personal board to help guide and advise her business. In fact, she built more than one and recommends that others do the same.

“There are three essential boards that everyone needs,” Skeete Tatum says. “Your board of directors, your advisory board and your personal board of advisors.”

The most commonly known of these three is, of course, your board of directors. Skeete Tatum is keen to point out the importance of having the right people in place here – even if you haven’t raised funding. “Your board can change your trajectory. No one builds a company alone. If it's only you on that journey, you're capped in terms of your potential. It’s about looking for individuals who can leverage and compliment your skills. I tend to look closely at leaders’ networks. If it's very homogeneous then I already know that the creativity and the possibilities are limited.”

As and when you do decide to go down the funding route, your board could well become even more important. “You’ve got to always have your eye on the next round,” she says. “The point of a seed round is to get to A. The point of A is to get to B. This means that you need to surround yourself with people who can help you knock down those milestones in order to scale and build your business.

“If, when it comes to your board, you’re approaching it from an investment point of view, choose your partners very wisely and do your due diligence – because it’s probably easier to get out of a marriage than a business situation like this.

“Your second board is your advisory board,” Skeete Tatum continues. “Because when you’re a founder, you might not always have a team, so your advisory board is your proxy for success. Within this group will be your strategic advisors. For me it was people who were involved with, say, Netflix and Uber who were experts when it came to personalisation – that’s what I needed. You’re also looking for these individuals to spread social and political capital on your behalf. That might mean picking up the phone, making an introduction or even helping you recruit.”

Finally, there’s your all-important personal board. Skeete Tatum says this will consist of, roughly, the five people you spend the most time with. They are there for emotional support, and crucially to help with self-doubt. “Even the great Maya Angelou – who is a hero of mine – said she lived in constant fear that someone would figure out she's a fraud.”

Skeete Tatum explains that with all boards, she only surrounds herself with truth tellers. “If you’re thinking about changing the world – as entrepreneurs like to do – then you need people who are going to tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.”

She also has some key players that she believes all entrepreneurs require. “Everyone needs a sponsor – someone who is talking about you; who is opening doors and helping you see around corners. Most of us are over-mentored and under-sponsored, and if that is your reality, you run the risk of missing out on development, networking and learning, as well as the ability to negotiate compensations and deals. There's a very intentional and powerful role that sponsors play in your journey.”

She also believes that everyone needs a connector – someone who knows everyone – and a point expert. “Your point person is someone who can go five, 10 or even 15 questions deep on your area of expertise. And, vitally, you need a close friend that you can truly confide in and ugly cry with. Because you can’t tell everything to everyone, we all know that. So, you have to have someone you truly trust, who has your back and who will bat for you. They will have to be there for you at your most vulnerable moment.

“You have to be very targeted, respectful and very intentional when you're thinking about developing these different types of boards, as well as the role they may serve. Entrepreneurship is isolating. And if you are informal about how you manage it, it will lack purpose, focus and impact. It is well documented that even if you're mission driven and you’re getting things done, building a business can be very lonely. But you can do something about this.”

Get in touch to find out how we can help you make the connections you need for your business to grow and succeed.

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