At Jimdo, we’ve been really lucky to get advice from lots of different people over the past eight years. We’re tremendously thankful for all the help—without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
When we seek advice, it’s typically for specific questions: structuring development processes, setting up a specific marketing campaign, or developing a mobile app, to name a few. This way, we’re able to learn a lot faster than if we had to teach ourselves everything through trial and error.
Over time, though, my Jimdo co-founders and I started looking for more. We wanted somebody who would be involved over a longer period of time, who would continually ask us the really hard questions, and thus help us develop Jimdo as a whole.
Most importantly, we wanted someone who could tell us the things he or she sees from the outside that are really hard for us to see from the inside.
So a while back, we had the idea of setting up an Advisory Board. The idea is to meet at least every three months, report on where we are, and discuss the next steps.
Today, I’m really happy to announce our first Advisory Board member: Neil Bainton. Christian got to know him at a conference in the U.S. (Knowing Christian, he started talking to Neil and didn’t give him a chance to walk away!) At that time, Neil was the COO of MailChimp and helped build it into one of the most successful email marketing companies to date. MailChimp is a company we deeply admire that shares a lot of the same cultural values as we do.
Christian was so impressed that he went to visit Neil and MailChimp in Atlanta to get a better picture. Neil and Christian stayed in touch and, last year, Neil came over and visited us here in Hamburg.
It just clicked between all four of us. He asked the really hard questions, and pinpointed and understood the challenges we face right away. We also felt that he was naturally aligned with the culture and vision at Jimdo, which was really important to us.
For example, one thing we discussed at length was the challenge we as co-founders face with passing on responsibilities (something Fridtjof has written about before). Jimdo is now made up of 200 awesome people, and it just isn’t possible for us to be responsible for every team. We needed to free up time for us to be more focused on where we want to take the company. This topic was not new to us, but Neil really stressed its importance and also guided us on what our new approach could be.
The first meetings with Neil have been tremendously helpful. Based on this experience, I recommend other businesses find their own version of an “advisory board” too. Of course it’s not important what you call it, how often you talk, or what the topics are. It will be different for everyone. Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far about setting one up:
- Find someone who you admire and trust.
- Find out if this person is passionate about you, your product and company, and would be available to make time for you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask! You can deal with a “no” and would probably be ecstatic about a “yes.”
- Set up a formal, regular process (e.g. talk every 4 weeks).
- Check after the first three sessions to see if everyone is still happy with the arrangement.
It’s been so productive and fun to work with Neil, and I hope you can experience something similar. Neil, you rock and we can’t wait to make Jimdo a better and better company with your help!