What Works: Agency Boards

People sitting on chairs around a table in a collaborative meeting
Photo by Redd / Unsplash

This is What Works. Here, we explore a hot topic for agency businesses, researching new ideas and best practice from around the world.

This time, we take a look at What Works: Agency Boards.


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Agency leaders often talk about wanting to work on their business at a higher strategic level, looking further ahead and being more proactive, but still too few agencies get around to having a structured approach to do this.

Those that do have a board, tend to have the meetings in an unstructured way. They're often little more than a chat about how things are going that doesn't really look ahead very far to make plans for what's coming down the line, or tackle any of the big issues facing the business.

So, how can we improve on this without going too far the other way and having boring formal meetings as if we run a bank?

In this What Works we're going to examine a range of sources of inspiration to give you ideas on how to start, or sharpen up, your agency's board.

We're going to cover the subject here by deepening the dive in steps:

  1. What we mean by a 'board'
    We first need to debunk some presumptions and define what we're talking about when we talking about a board for an agency.
  2. The purpose of a board
    Next we look at why a board is important, what it's there to do, and why it's important and healthy for you as you lead your agency.
  3. Forming a board
    There's important things to keep in mind in composing a board, inviting people  to join, and setting your board's culture.
  4. The work of the board
    Although meetings themselves are the focus of a board, important board work happens at other times as well.

So, with that framework shaping us, here’s what you need to know. This is what works.


What we mean by a 'board'

When hearing about a board or having directors people often think of a big oak table in an oak panelled room with deep pile carpets, or of a huge glass table in a glass-walled room on the top floor of a glass skyscraper. Around these tables sit grey men in expensive suits, plodding through a formal agenda of things in a dull way, voting, and then going for a long lunch.

That is the polar opposite of what we're aiming for. In fast-moving businesses like agencies, a board meeting can provide a vital strategic sounding board without bogging the CEO down in formalities. It's more about taking the time to step back from the business and look at it from a different perspective.

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