You've survived the heady days of starting a business venture and obtaining seed money. You're confident you can take it to the next level. But to successfully scale a business, you'll need guidance and oversight. That's where a board of directors comes in.


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Here are some key qualities to look for in potential board members:

  • Experience
    Identify seasoned professionals who can add value, insight, credibility and experience to guide your company.
  • A willingness to push you
    Look for individuals who are going to challenge your ideas and strategies to help you get to the next level.
  • Specialized knowledge
    Tap individuals with unique skills to create well-rounded thought leadership around the boardroom table.
  • An understanding of the big picture
    Your board members aren’t there to get in the weeds. You want them to have a broad vision, and to be in tune with what’s happening out there in the world.
  • A network
    The best directors know lots of people—contacts that are aware of pending changes to regulations, know talent outside your circle, or have the inside scoop on office space or suppliers.
  • An ability to raise your profileThere’s great value in board members who can open doors to public-speaking opportunities, introduce you to decision-makers, and promote your brand.

When hiring a director, there’s a lot to consider. This individual will be your partner, advocate, co-strategist and a key investor in your success.

Here are some key questions to ask when hiring a director:

  • What else have you invested in?
    Explore whether there are synergies that can be leveraged between their investments.
  • Can you introduce us to your network?
    Remember, this individual’s rolodex is one of his or her most valuable contributions to your company.
  • Have you operated a startup before?
    If you only look at the financials of a startup, they don’t always make sense. The market may not exist yet, the need may not be established, and everything is new. You need someone who has been there before, and has the ability to envision a new market.

When you’re running a business, relationships are key to your success. As you scale up and even look to go public, you’ll need a board that’s behind you every step of the way, and shares your vision for the company you’ve started. Select carefully, take your time, and hire outside help if you need a professional opinion throughout this important process.

John Stackhouse is a nationally bestselling author and one of Canada's leading voices on innovation and economic disruption. He is senior vice-president in the office of the CEO at Royal Bank of Canada, leading the organization's research and thought leadership on economic, technological and social change. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail and editor of Report on Business. He is a senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. His latest book is Planet Canada: How Our Expats Are Shaping the Future, which explores the untapped resource of the millions of Canadians who don't live here but exert their influence from afar.

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