Your first answer might conjure playground riddles from first grade: a frog in a blender. But it also might be the answer to a common struggle for merging institutions: their advisory boards.
Without proper planning and an intentional effort, blending cultures of two advisory boards may cause things to “go round all day.”
Trying to innovate or create new solutions coming from entirely different foundations and frames of reference may bring about some real headaches. Here's how to avoid them.
the purpose of your advisory board
While an advisory board isn’t typically a policy-making body, it does serve some very important functions for the bank:
- their ears are to the ground: they can let you know of changes in the community—or to your reputation—before you otherwise hear of them.
- they are opening doors for you: helping a business development person get a meeting because they put in a good word for you is invaluable.
- they are banking with you: they can give honest feedback about products and services that you currently offer—or should be offering.
- they are your advocates in the community, and in their spheres of influence. This is especially important in the case of a merger because they can reassure and help set the record straight if there is any misinformation floating about.
The advisory board members are your insiders, so be sure you’re treating them as trusted partners, not as an afterthought. Be sure you’re taking these steps before the brand and messaging is unveiled to the public.
have a retreat
Get everyone together, away from their everyday business, to focus on this work. Plan far enough ahead so you no one misses out. Use a facilitator to ensure that the conversation and activities are engaging, and also effective.
share the vision
Present the vision and mission of the newly blended institution. They need to know what’s changed and what’s staying the same. In either case, articulate the WHYs and the HOWs that affect them, the employees and the customers.
ask for input
Give them time to listen, absorb and consider what they’ve heard. Ask for their questions. Allow them to poke holes in your messaging and your rationale. You’ve been working on this for a long time and you’re very close to it. They may bring up matters you’ve completely overlooked. Let them help you prepare to put your best foot forward when you unveil your new institution to the public.
mix business and fun
Help them get to know each other . Moving forward, this group is going to need to work together. Create opportunities for socializing and fun so if they don’t already knoweach other, they have the opportunity to begin building some new relationships.
Not only does this benefit your need for a cohesive board, it also benefits them. They may begin to establish some ways they can work together or recommend each other in ways that benefit their businesses. That’s win-win.
what they need
When the time is right, they need to be able to easily share the news correctly and on-message. Give them a brief that illustrates key points about the benefits of your merger and how it benefits customers and the community.
One institution we’ve worked with provides business cards to its directors. Cards note the director’s name and position on the board, along with two contacts at the bank. This makes it easy for directors to make a referral at a business mixer or cocktail party.
That’s an inexpensive way to keep your institution “out and about” with the added third party endorsement of a director.
updated job description and paperwork
When you first recruited the directors, you probably gave the a job description, term limits and an NDA. Is compensation the same? Was it different for the two boards? If you haven’t updated these things, the time is now. Be sure everyone has the same expectations and you won't be tripped up because of an oversight.
Be sure to send out news releases highlighting the advisory directors of your newly combined institution. Post them on your website and in your customer communications. The good press will make them feel good, and give you one more PR hit to bring more visibility about your bank, its purpose and the stellar people on your board.
Set the tone for a perfectly blended, fully-functioning board of advocates that shapes your institution’s future. There’s nowhere to go but up.
For more best practices on bank advisory boards, see our 5-minute video 3 Steps to Stronger Advisory Boards. If you need help facilitating a perfectly blended advisory board, call Martha at 785.969.6203.