34 minutes | Jan 15th 2020

1. Larry Siff: Great boards, great board members and how a board can drive success for your company

Episode Overview

Larry Siff joins hosts Joe Ayoub and Raza Shaikh to explore what makes a board of directors effective and productive, what qualities makes a strong and valuable board member and how can a board add value to and help drive a business to achieve its goals. 


Larry has deep and extensive board experience, both as a board member, averaging 6 board seats a year for over 30 years, and as an advisor to hundreds of companies, half of which have been family businesses.  He has been the CEO of Neptune Advisors which helps middle market companies position themselves for strategic growth, since founding it 10 years ago.  He is also the CEO of C-Level Community, a membership based platform that connects middle market leaders, which he founded 3 years ago, and has served as CEO of 7 middle market companies.



Highlights Include

  • Larry’s first board was a non-profit board at an early age and he has been driven to give back to the community throughout his career.  Importance of understanding the mission from the perspective of those that the organization serves. A person served by his first non-profit said to him:  “You brought the outside world back to me”


  • C-Level Community – they have consistently hosted some of the most interesting breakfast gatherings in the business world.  


  • What sets the stage for an effective Board - an actionable, viable business plan, and a board built on the skills/expertise that will drive that business plan to the future.


  • Discussion about building a business/strategic plan with actionable steps – and the role of a board in creating that plan. 


  • A business plan should define priorities and how to achieve them.  It must be an active, workable, livable plan – everyone needs to understand their role in servicing the plan.  And everyone has to be vested in making the plan succeed and be accountable for their role in doing so. 


  • Attributes of a strong Board member.  Experience helps - one way to gain board experience is in the non-profit world. 


  • A board member must understand that is a fiduciary obligation to deliver enhanced strategic value add that accelerates a company's growth.  You've got to be able to mentor the CEO and the senior management and build a culture of both innovation and accountability.


  • A strong board culture, built on trust and transparency, are paramount.  Among others things, communication should come to the board from the CEO every month – it can be an email or a call, but the board should not go three months without knowing what's happening in the business   


  • Preparation by board members should always be done before the board meeting, not during the meeting.  You should never see a board member reviewing information during the meeting for the first time or hear a question that is clearly addressed in the materials.


  • PowerPoint presentations should be sent in advance – focus on key issues during the meeting rather than “dog and pony shows.” 


  • Boards should focus on long term strategy 3, 5 and 10 years from now.  For the board to add value for the company they need to focus on the success of the company.  How do we make this company successful? How can we as board members really focus on the future? Not on yesterday, not on today, but on the future and making sure that's where the board is spending its time.


  • The board cannot be afraid to challenge. There has to be constructive dissent. That said, when a decision is made, even if you don't agree with a particular decision as a board member, the decision has been made.


  • Board members have got to think and act like an owner, whether they actually own stock or not.


  • Challenge of off-boarding: easy to ask someone on a board, very hard to ask them off!  A lot of CEOs or Board chairs don’t want uncomfortable conversations and hesitate to have one they think will be uncomfortable when it comes to asking someone to leave the board.


  • A conversation with an unproductive board member starts with the expectations set when that person joined the board. You've defined the expectations up front, and by doing that, when you have a board member who's not performing, you can to sit down with the board member and have a conversation.


  • Value of executive sessions with and without the presence of the CEO.
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