Who's on Your Board of Directors?

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One of the best  things I did for my business was to form a group of friends I could trust and turn to. In 2012 I had the good fortune of moving in under a very old friend and her family in Oakland. Kari was the older sister of a boyfriend I had in high school. He and his family have always kept in touch with me in some way or another, and they have always felt like family. So when a one bedroom opened up in the 4-plex she and her family live in, she let me know. I moved in the Summer of 2012 the week after I had lost my job. Pheww!

It was that fall that I would start really thinking about launching this little business of mine. I would spend many nights up stairs with Kari and her husband Rob with a nice hot cup of PG Tips, while their sweet toddler slept in the next room. I would labor over my services with them, and bounce ideas off of them on what I should offer my prospective clients, what I should charge, etc.

It became a running joke if we'd gone an hour without discussing my services. Needless to say they were very patient.

Kari is one of those people who has infectious energy, and a beautiful smile so it's very hard to ever be in a bad mood around her. She and Rob kept me from many a dark night with their wonderful sense of humor after I had lost my job.One night Kari came home from a networking event that she had moderated, and she was very excited about how the evening went.

There was one thing from the event that really stuck with Kari -- and has stuck with me since -- one of the main speakers said throughout her career she has always had a 'Board of Directors' to turn to. The speaker described (and I'm paraphrasing) that this was a group of confidents, peers, and mentors that have helped her continually climb the proverbial professional ladder. They're people in her life whom she confides, shares ideas, fears, achievements, around her career and in turn they've offered feedback, support, and deliver the tough stuff when no one else will. This has been one of those pieces of advice that I've taken with me and often think about.

As I've slowly started to build my own business and navigate the highs and lows I've also started to create and add to my own Board of Directors. Kari was the first, obviously, and even though she's 3000 miles away now, she still remains an honorary member and offers me advice when ever I reach out to her. I've added many women to my board over that past few years. They're a strong and dynamic group whose input I value greatly.

What's great about my group is they're women from all walks of life. Women who have more experience than me, women who have less experience than me. Women who are older than me, women who are younger than me. Women in completely different areas of work than me, and so on. The common denominator for all of them is the ability to be straight with me about my ideas, offer feedback, give me perspective that I might not have, and connect me to resources or other people who may be able to help me further my business or ideas.

There's nothing official about my board of directors. They also aren't always close friends. They're women I admire, look up to, connect with, and feel safe enough to be vulnerable about my business and ideas I have surrounding my business.

All of these relationships have helped me grow in so many ways professionally, and in many ways personally. They've given me insight into a reality that I might not be able to see just yet. They've held me accountable to my ever growing to-do list as a business owner. And what's more, because I work alone they are a great escape for me to connect to during a lonely day.

These are women who are also navigating their own professional landscape. They're working towards, sometimes similar/sometimes not professional goals too, and I get to help them as well. We bounce ideas of each other, share experience, connect each other to other friends, but most importantly we cheer each other on and we're frank and loving about expectations around our dreams.

This kind of community is not only rewarding, but it's essential to my growth as a small business owner.

So tell me, who's on your board of directors?