Dave Fox Remodeling has retained a board of directors for many years. But it wasn't until Gary Demos became company president in 2004 that the board became a pivotal player in guiding the Columbus, Ohio, company. Now Demos turns to his board members for advice on everything from employee benefits to marketing. Forming a group of advisors can give a remodeler a sounding board for ideas, encourage team spirit, or even help direct a company's future.

When Craig Durosko, president of Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, in Burke, Va., first put together an advisory board in 2000, he wanted to create a steering committee that “could look at where we are and where we're going,” he says. Durosko decided to create an in-house advisory board. The eight board members are also department heads, including the chief operating officer, the controller, and the director of communications. The team meets off site four times per year, and the company pays for meals. “Every time we get together, good things come out of the meetings,” Durosko says.

In fact, the company has experienced 20% growth each year since the board was created. Durosko attributes this, in part, to the board's enthusiasm and willingness to make things happen. “The people on the board know why, what, and when, and there's accountability,” he says. “They feel like part of the [company's] success.”

The four meetings each have a specific purpose, including strategic planning, staffing review, work plan/operational planning, and budget development. “Another good thing that has come out of our meetings is that we've identified our core values, our targets, and the culture of our company,” Durosko says.

OUTSIDE MEMBERS While Durosko chose key players from inside the company to map the future, Demos looked beyond the company's walls to create a diverse team. The board of directors includes Demos, the company's vice president, and two outside members: an architect and a commercial contractor. “We wanted a good mix, and to tap into their wisdom and experiences,” he says. When choosing board candidates, Demos considered suggestions from his company's attorney and a consultant who he had previously worked with. The outside board members earn a flat rate each time the board meets, although Demos says that many experts in the field would likely offer their services for free. “They have experience and wisdom, and they like to contribute it.”

Both agree that the most important factor — regardless of whether board members are outside members or employees — is to treat everyone's opinions and ideas with respect. “It's very humbling to go into that meeting and know your ideas are going to be challenged,” Durosko says. “But being open to others' perspectives and coming away with fresh ideas and alternatives is important.”

If a remodeler is simply looking for people to validate his opinion, he's wasting everyone's time, Demos says. “The whole reason for having a board is to get that objective advice and wisdom.”

Amy Campbell is a senior editor for REMODELING.