How to Be the CEO of Your ‘Personal Board of Directors’
Starting a new business can be daunting and scary. It brings out every insecurity you can imagine: Will they buy it? Can I get the financing? Is this crazy? Will I lose all my savings?
It’s also frightening to consider leaving a marriage or starting a new one in midlife, or thinking about retiring. Any change can make us want to put the proverbial blanket over our heads and simply do nothing.
When I decided to launch Best of Everything Media, Inc., I stopped myself from moving forward because I was scared and felt alone. But, I quickly turned that fear into action by starting my own Board of Directors (which I also refer to as my “Kitchen Cabinet”).
Here’s how it works: The three of us (but any number of people will do) get together every week, without fail, at the same diner. Each one of us gets 15 minutes to discuss everything and anything that needs discussing. Usually it pertains to our blossoming businesses–or, as in one member’s case, getting a new job–but not always. Sometimes we talk about exercise, or men, or kids, or whatever is most pressing. But the real goal of this club is to get input, to brainstorm and to create a level of accountability that is often hard to do on your own. We leave the meeting each week with our own personal “To Do” lists, and the items must be checked off the list by the next meeting, or there’s a lot of explaining to do.
This is a very simple, but extremely powerful tool, and one which I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage you to embrace, especially if you are considering making changes in your life, and aren’t quite sure how to begin. This can be particularly useful for those of us who are over 50, unemployed and trying to figure out a way to get back into the workforce, or start a new venture.
As with many great ideas I’ve incorporated into my life, this one came from an incredible woman. Cozy Friedman is a successful and smart entrepreneur who saw the need for a new kind of hair salon for kids: fun, not just utilitarian. Almost 20 years ago, she started Cozy’s Cuts for Kids in New York City, where she now has two salons, and followed up with So Cozy Hair Care for Children products, which is sold in stores nationwide and online. Most recently, Cozy came out with a best-selling book, “Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girls’ Hair.” Both my daughters had their very first hair cuts at Cozy’s Salon–a NYC ritual–when they were each about one year old, way before I even realized that Cozy was a real person and that, yes, her name is actually Cozy.)
At some point, Cozy realized that if she was going to push aside her fears of failing and grow her business, she would have to take some risks. But even though she understood this intellectually, emotionally, she couldn’t get herself to make the moves she needed to make alone. That’s when this simple but powerful idea came to her: She would create her own personal Board of Directors who would hold her accountable, help her with key decisions and be there to support and encourage her when she was in the throes of self-doubt.
This turned out to be one of the best business and personal decisions Cozy has made. The group–the members jokingly refer to themselves as “The Diner Gals,” since they always meet at the same place.
While they may cover some non-business subjects from time to time, Cozy made it clear that this is not the morning version of a “girls’ night out.” On the contrary, it is quite serious, and every member is expected to adhere to the rules.
According to Cozy, the most important features of any successful “Board of Directors” are:
- Be on time
- Be committed
- Be honest
- Be supportive
- Be creative
- Be an active participant
- Don’t be embarrassed
- Don’t be afraid to share
- Don’t hold back
- Don’t judge
- Check your ego at the door
- Everything must be held in strict confidence
- Each member must be accountable to the group
- Expect greatness from each other
Sometimes it does take a village to get where you want to go.