Today I'm taking down the "board" page of the SH International website, where I highlight the people who have graciously agreed to provide my business with expertise, connections, and moral support. As my business has become simpler in many ways, this advisory board no longer serves a concrete function. I want to create this post to simply thank them for their generous presence, commemorate this experience, and share some lessons learned.
Check out members of SH International's old advisory board at the end of this post. I believe that this could be the advisory board of a Fortune 500 company. Here are some lessons learned on how you too can build the best advisory board ever!
Who was I to have an advisory board for my business? Why would anyone want to join this advisory board? These are the questions I had when one of my friends suggested that I make one. I spent a very long time mulling over his suggestion, struggling to understand how it could even be possible for people to support me in my business like this. And finally I decided - well there's only one way to find out - by trying!
Put yourself in their shoes.
I asked myself, if someone were to join this board, why would they do it? And I came up with some key points. My lack of belief that they would be interested, caused me to put all of my effort into making the most compelling value proposition possible.
I sent them each a humble and formal letter that showed that I had put a lot of time and consideration into my request. I wanted them to know that I deeply respected them and their expertise.
Make the responsibilities clear.
Busy and important people don't like "writing blank checks" with their time. By letting them know upfront what they would be asked to do as a board member, it made it easier for them to understand if they could afford to make the commitment. I purposely designed those responsibilities to maximize the value of a low but regular time commitment, and told them so much.
I couldn't afford to compensate any of these people properly in cash, and wasn't interested in complicating the ownership structure of my company by offering equity. So I thought about what type of behavior did I want to incentivize, and created a financial incentive around that behavior. Please note, not all board members below accepted that incentive as it was a conflict of interest for some.
I don't believe that any of these individuals were primarily motivated by this incentive. I offered it out of respect for the corollary to the moral of the Little Red Hen tale - Everyone who contributes gets to share in the outcome. I also provided other valuable non-financial incentives based on other resources of the company that I could afford to give.
Let them know that they are in excellent company.
I listed some of the attributes of the others I was inviting, including prestigious schools and companies, and showed that I was inviting a variety of relevant people so that the conversation would be interesting for everyone.
Adhiraj Parthasarathy is a market research, data analytics and management professional with specific expertise in innovation design, and new product development. He is a board member at Karvy, a widely diversified financial and data management organization, as well as a board member of Karvy Insights, Karvy Data Management Services, Karvy Analytics, Karvy Solar Power and Karvy Consultants. At Karvy, he has managed the execution of large multi-sited projects; handling diverse and massive teams as they collected data for the Indian census; and managing change through thought leadership as an ethnographic researcher and consultant.
Adhiraj has an MBA from the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business and a bachelor of arts in anthropology, economics and communications from the University of Pennsylvania. He speaks English, Hindi, and Telegu, and has traveled to more than fifty countries, including Kosovo and Ethiopia. A fun fact about him is that he helped excavate the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bat, Al-Ain and Khutm in Oman. He was born and raised in India, where he currently lives in Hyderabad.
Bura Chuhadar is a software engineer with a primary specialization in Microsoft technologies focusing on ERP software solutions. He is currently working at Oracle, developing one of the largest marketing applications in the world for customers including Apple, Google, and Intel. In his last position for a market research company in Philadelphia, he developed a survey tool used for 1.5 million users nationwide in the U.S for a market research company. Previously in Turkey, one of his biggest projects was developing, designing, architecting and leading the team for an ERP system from scratch, implementing it for the Turkish branches of multinational companies such as P&G, Danon, 3M, Barilla, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and LG.
Bura studied business administration and computer mathematics at Istanbul Culture University, and speaks Turkish, French and English. His hobbies include traveling, programming games in Unity3D, and coding for other open source projects in different programming languages. He was born and raised in Turkey, and currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Julio Marquez has 25+ years of experience in emerging markets principal investments and M&A, and serves as Director or Partner at several leading institutions. He regularly consults for top international M&A institutions such as Perella Weinberg and Violy & Company. He has 20+ years of experience in investment banking at Morgan Stanley, Citibank and, most recently, Global Emerging Markets Group and Gottbetter Capital Markets. He has developed particular expertise in structuring foreign investments in Latin America in industries as diverse as media/telecom, manufacturing, retailing, energy, oil & gas, plastics and steel. He is an Adjunct Professor at the New York School of Finance, as well as a lecturer at Columbia University and Baruch College. He holds FINRA licenses 7, 24, 27, 63, 82 and 99.
Julio has an MBA from Harvard Business School, a master's degree with honors in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He speaks Spanish and English. He was born and raised in Mexico City, and is a dual US-Mexico citizen currently living in Manhattan.
Leah Goold-Haws is a trade expert providing California small businesses with tools, training and resources to succeed in export trade activities. She currently serves as the Statewide Director for the California Centers for International Trade Development, and Sector Navigator for Global Trade, overseeing a trade assistance team that works with the 114 colleges in the California Community College System. She also operates a federal Market Development Cooperator Program in partnership with the US Department of Commerce, providing training in ecommerce for cross-border trade. She serves in many other leadership positions in global trade, including President of the International Business Association of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Leah comes to the industry as an entrepreneur, having founded LGH Marketing/Strategy, Mindevices and Girls Gone Global. Leah created Know Opportunity, a board game that teaches global commerce and entrepreneurship, which was featured in both Forbes and Inc. magazines. Leah has an MBA in International Business and Global Entrepreneurship from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a BFA from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Prof. Philip Nichols is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has also taught at the National University of Mongolia, Singapore Management University, Indian School of Business, and Korea University. His research focuses on the institutions of international trade - primarily the World Trade Organization - and on the institutional changes occurring in emerging economies. He has conducted substantial research on corruption, publishing two books on the topic, as well as over thirty articles. He also teaches courses on emerging economies and on international business transactions.
He holds the co-chair position of the Law Group of UN/CEFACT ((United Nations experts committee on electronic commerce and trade facilitation), and serves as co-chair of the International Economic Law Group of the American Society of International Law.
He has a J.D./L.L.M. from Duke University, and is a graduate of Harvard University.
Shabu Qureshi has over 30 years of experience in international finance and investment, predominantly focused on emerging markets. He currently manages his own investment firm, Q Development, which focuses on emerging markets private equity and US real estate. Prior to that, he was a Partner at EMP Global, an emerging markets infrastructure investment firm, where he was responsible for the firm’s MENA activities, including the $730 million IDB Infrastructure Fund. He is currently on the Board of TRG International, which owns a number of companies involved in call center operations and technology.
Shabu has also worked at Salomon Brothers in fixed-income trading and Goldman Sachs in Corporate Finance. He has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of Swarthmore College. He was born in Washington DC, where he currently lives.