Where would Hewlett have been without Packard? Where would Jobs have been without Wozniak? Or Page without Brin?
Great businesses leaders do not do it on their own.
In this post we are going to talk about creating an Advisory Board. Even if you’re a one person start up, you can’t do it all yourself and you won’t have all the answers. You’ll need a team of advisers to help you get your business off the ground and make your business a success.
An Advisory Board is a collection of informal or formal advisers who have a special skill or insight which is helpful to your business. Your board may include individuals with business experience, finance or marketing expertise. They may be in your industry or have broad skills in the areas that you are short of. Above all they aren’t living your day to day business like you are.
One way to look at it is the Advisory Board is your personal board of advisers. The members of the Advisory Board will have no legal say in the running of your business, so you aren’t answerable to them. However, they are independent and their advice and experience could be invaluable to you, your business and it’s success.
Although you aren’t answerable to the Advisory Board, one of the key benefits of having an Advisory Board is that you are holding yourself to account by sharing your ideas, your goals and your vision. Which in itself is to make these things that you want to achieve much more likely to happen.
In addition your team could potentially help you win larger projects or enable you to enhance the customer experience by partnering with your advisors.
Ideally the skills of your Advisory Board should complement or supplement the skills you are lacking, but the biggest single benefit that the Advisors bring to the table is that they are independent and they aren’t closely associated with your business on a day to day basis. Which is especially helpful because when you’re closely involved in something, it’s very difficult to to see the wood from the trees.
The boards could be virtual or physical but you should meet with them several times a year.
How to Create An Advisory Board
To create your Advisory Board, follow these steps:
- Brainstorm your target list
Think of all the people from your network who could potentially help you with your business and write their names down on a piece of paper.
- What is in it for your prospects
Then, next to each person’s name think about what you could potentially offer that person to help them. Whilst some people might just be willing to help you for nothing, think about the relationship as two way and making it mutually beneficial. That way you minimise the amount of goodwill that you use up and that the other party will also be more willing to help if they think that they too will get something out of it. It might be as simple as money, but equally it could be the opportunity to network with like minded professionals or in exchange for some services from you, which you might be able to provide them instead of paying for their time. Eg. Webdesign, , Copywriting etc.
- Don’t waste their time
Always value your Advisory Board’s time which goes to say you don’t call them up about the slightest thing every 5 minutes, but wait until you’ve got something substantial to discuss with them. Agree with your board (whether you meet 1:1 or as a group) how often you will call them or how often you will meet and how regularly you will be in touch in between each “formal” meeting.
- Keep up a dialogue
In between each “formal” meeting with your board you will want to update them on progress. Tell them about significant events etc, but don’t hound them,.. Once every couple of weeks by email telling them what’s going on is more than enough. A good rule of thumb is that the email should take no more than 2 minutes to read and 10 minutes to create. Don’t swamp them with information and highlight the key points eg sales last month, this month +x%. If you want something as a result of the email, make sure it’s clear about what you want.
- Be Open
Be honest with your Advisory Board. Tell them why you want their help and don’t hide the problems that you’re facing. A problem shared is often a problem fixed as your board members may be able to offer you insights that you would have never got on your own.
If you don’t have the time for creating a formal group of advisers, or you simply don’t have the network with suitable experience, one option that you can consider is a Virtual Board. New York Times Best Selling Author and Social Media “guru”, Chris Brogan, created Kitchen Table Companies for providing exactly that kind of service. (The Big Red Tomato Co is a member)
Kitchen Table Companies works like a message board. You simply post your question and other members of the community will respond and give you the benefit of their experience. Often times members will reach out and talk directly via Skype or on the phone, it’s $47 a month but the first 10 days is just $4.97 so well worth checking out and seeing if it’s for you.