I sit and have sat on many high powered advisory boards and, aside from my own companies, one high-powered board of directors. My role or Facebook and MTV is different than my role with McAfee, Trustee or the Ad Council, which in turn is different from my role with Children’s Television Workshop.
Sometimes the advisory board I am joining has been up and running for years. But often, I was the first member or asked to set it up for the company as well as serving as chair. But, in each case the conversation needs to focus on why the company wants the advisory board, what we are expected to do and how we are expected to do it.
I have had some disastrous experiences with middle management appointed to oversee the board and our suggestions being above their pay grade. Once I had a middle manager who passed off our ideas as his own. I have had some riddled with egos and personal agendas that weren’t worth the angst. But, have had many more that were managed right and used my time and expertise with respect.
I have been well-compensated and I have served without charge. In a couple cases, I even covered my own expenses. (These are boards for non-profits.) Some take tons of time, and the others seem to just want my name on a list.
I receive on average, one advisory board or board of directors offer a week. Some companies, especially start-ups, pass these out like candy. Sometimes they saw me on Dr. Phil, the Today Show, GMA or CNN. They may have read an article by or about me in a newspaper, or heard about an award I received. Sometimes we meet at a conference or at a cocktail party. They are looking for “names,” however they define them.
I am nice about it, but explain that I am limited in my advisory roles and thank them for asking.
Then, I write them off for anything serious. Their reaching out to me when they know nothing more than a headline is bad management. And bad management and strategic planning rarely succeeds in the long term.