It is important to take these roles seriously. I limit my advisory board seats and carefully define the expectations on both sides. I make sure that I am connected to the company and that it fits with my own professional and personal strategic plans. Companies I work with have learned that I am more likely to accept a role if peoples’ lives are improved by the services, products or offerings of the company (for-profit, social entrepreneurship or non-profit).
If I think the company has merit, but is not a good fit for me personally, I may recommend and help recruit someone else for that role. I also let them know that if things change, and I feel that my time is not being valued or no longer believe in the company’s vision or practices, I will resign.
I need to know whom else is on the advisory board or whom else will be asked. Do existing members have a say about any new or replacement members? How big is the board? Is it big enough that we aren’t imposed upon more than is fair and still small enough that our voice is heard?
I ask how often we are expected to attend f2f meetings. How much prep work there will be before a meeting and follow-up after those meetings. How many time should I be expected to attend conference calls or review documentation. How much am I expected to learn about the business operations of the company? How do we interact, if at all, with the board of directors or CEO?
How will my sitting on an advisory board affect my ability to consult for or provide legal advice for a competitor or anyone else in the same or similar space? Am I insured or indemnified for any liability resulting from my role as an advisory board member? Am I compensated? Do I receive stock options or equity? Is there an honorarium? A donation to my charity, in lieu of an honorarium? Are my travel expenses covered? Are other expenses covered? Are all members compensated equally? If not, are all aware of any unequal compensation packages?
Is there a point person to help manage our communications or are we on our own? Is there someone to help us navigate our way around the company and get us information when I need it?
Bottomline, I say yes to companies and people I like. A very high consulting fee may get my attention in the short term, but if I don’t trust the company or management or my fellow board members, I’m gone as soon as the contract ends. I will help a friend if I think they really need my help and don’t waste my time. And I will devote myself to causes and NGOs who make a difference and value my contribution.
I suspect, others do the same.