From disaster planning to maintaining accountability, there are a number of great reasons why every serious (franchise) company should have a board. But sometimes, despite the best intentions of a company, the board simply isn’t creating the value for the organization that it expects. Whether it’s a lack of time on behalf of the business owner, or irreconcilable differences among its members, there may be only one option that makes sense for everyone involved. It’s an option I like to call “unboarding.”
What is Unboarding?
Unboarding is the process of removing yourself from a board – or shutting down a board – when the relationship stops being productive. Perhaps as a board member you find that you just aren’t adding value to the company you serve anymore – or that your advice is falling on deaf ears. Or, it could be as simple as a change in location: if you’re moving out of state or changing careers, it could impact your ability to serve as an engaged board member.
How Do You Know it’s Time?
Knowing when to unboard yourself may not always be easy, but if you’re starting to feel unsettled by your current board membership, or feel that you’re not adding any real value, it’s probably time to start evaluating your future participation and membership.
Here are a few examples:
- After helping a business get back on track, and instituting an advisory board to keep them profitable, the company I worked with for three years chose to go against my recommendations and move forward with a business strategy that too closely mimicked where they had been in the past – and contributed to the negative cash flow and other troubles we had worked so hard to fix. Because it was a decision I couldn’t support, I decided to quietly and respectfully resign my position as the lead director of the board.
- I helped a company CEO organize a board of advisors, but because the company was growing so fast, the owner found himself strapped for time – and unable to keep up with his board. Without the updates we needed to really understand the company’s growth or the decisions being made, we were unable to continue serving the business in a meaningful way. When the owner recognized this problem, he made the decision to dissolve – or unboard – the entire advisory board until he had the ability to give it the time and attention it needed to succeed.
In both cases, the decision to unboard was done carefully and with the highest amounts of respect for everyone involved. Not only does this prevent unnecessary drama, but it leaves the relationships in place and the door open for future opportunities within the organization.
What to Keep in Mind
Whether you’re serving as a board member or organizing a board for your company, it’s important to realize that these arrangements are not forever - things need to remain flexible. You’ll have people coming and going from the board for a variety of reasons: people get sick, they move away and their careers change. There are also personalities to consider: if two people always agree or two people always disagree, you only need one of them on the board. After all, a good board will have a healthy tension and constructive conversation. It’s through that process that you'll have more confidence and get the full value from the time and efforts invested in your board.