Model 1: Purely advice
Connie Clerici, CEO of Mississauga, Ont.-based Closing the Gap Healthcare Group, set up her board very carefully three years ago. She recruited six advisors who cover most areas of the health-care industry that matter to her. They meet at least four times a year, but she also calls them individually when she needs input on a particular issue. Clerici uses her advisors as a sounding board on specific issues and for input on strategic direction. They also attend the company’s annual strategic retreat alongside management, although they don’t review financials or performance.
Clerici says the board’s input has resulted in better decisions and has even changed her mind on a few issues, particularly a new growth strategy that the advisors discussed last fall: “It definitely changed because of that meeting — for the better.”
Model 2: Advice + accountability
Rob Bracey, president of Toronto-based computer-support firm Quartet Service Inc., was inspired to set up his advisory board after attending a Microsoft partners conference in Boston. The speakers were very clear, he says, “that their partner companies with advisory boards are on average much more profitable than those without.”
Bracey’s board has four advisors, only one of them from the computer industry. As well as input on strategic direction, he’s seeking the focus and discipline that will accrue to him and his management team from preparing for regular meetings that review performance versus objectives. In addition, the board chairman, Jim St. James, meets regularly with Bracey between meetings to provide follow-up and coaching.