There is one thing I know for sure about myself, and that’s that I don’t have all the answers to my business problems. So I have an advisory board for my business that's comprised of people whose opinions I respect and admire. Each has helped me tremendously throughout the years.
No matter how small or large your business is, you can benefit from building an advisory board. Talking through various challenges with others helps you gain clarity and formulate strategies that are often more successful than what you might have done on your own. An advisory board is a cost-effective way for your small business to obtain high-level expertise so you can adjust your course if need be.
In addition to solid advice, board members may also be able to open doors for you by utilizing their networks. As part of your team, they have a vested interest in your success, so don’t hesitate to ask for “warm” referrals.
Entrepreneurs are often eternal optimists, and while that’s not a bad thing, it can have its disadvantages. Sometimes we miss the red flags because of our “can-do” attitude. A strong advisory board can help you avoid potential pit-falls by asking you tough questions and getting you to drill-down into the detail.
To create an advisory board for your small business, determine how many people you want to serve on your board. Too many people often results in lower productivity. Therefore, consider having no more than a handful of people, and choose them wisely. In fact, selecting the right individuals for your board is critical. Consider people who complement your personal skills and strengths. Make a list of the areas where you need the most help, and use this list to identify advisory board members.
Remember to look for people who are strong enough to take unpopular stances and give you honest feedback. A “yes person” isn’t right for this group. It’s also critical that your board members understand the dynamics of a small business and the challenges of your industry. And you should consider whether you are truly willing to listen to advice that runs counter to your ideas. If you're defensive, then you're wasting your time and theirs as well.
To get the most benefit from your advisory board meetings, always be prepared for them. Choose a location for the meeting that is free of distractions. It’s a good idea to distribute essential information in advance of the meeting so your board members have time to review it. After your meetings, keep the lines of communication opens. Keep them updated on your company’s progress. And remember: Ideas without action aren’t worth much. It’s up to you to take action.
By the way, I sit on a number of advisory boards for small businesses and I am always honored to be asked, so don’t be hesitant to invite people. Honestly, I get a lot out of the meetings and enjoy learning about a variety of businesses.