At one point or another, every successful entrepreneurial business will grow to include not only strategic partners but also valued employees. To support the continued success of the business during this time of growth, leaders may begin to seek advice from influencers outside of their regular network, often in the form of an advisory board.
Developing an advisory board presents your business with the opportunity to share unique ideas that have the potential to further the success of your business before you move forward with a detailed action plan. Advisory boards often create forums that aim to expand business ideas and may even include platforms to share industry experience. A company’s first advisory board will normally be comprised of trusted advisors who are willing to share their expertise with the leaders of the company.
Who Should I Invite to the Advisory Board?
Mentorship plays a key role when choosing board members. Your board members should include individuals you trust, as well as those who can offer opportunities for growth within your industry. Board members should be confident in their own expertise to offer alternative points of view. Instead of filling your board with people who agree with all of your ideas, consider individuals who will create a dialogue and start a new conversation. This may lead you outside of your comfort zone, but it will likely introduce strategies and growth opportunities that you would not have otherwise considered.
As you develop a list of potential candidates, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
1) Invite professionals from outside of your industry who can offer their services and expertise to further your business, such as lawyers, accountants, real estate agents or technology experts.
2) Consider including influential members of your community.
3) Invite bankers, investment firm professionals or a financial liaison.
4) Include a member of your leadership team, such as a CFO or sales professional.
Logistics and Details of Your Advisory Board
There are several obvious considerations when forming your board, such as:
- How many times per year willyou meet?
- Will you organise a meeting to coordinatewith your strategic plan?
- Where will you host the meetings?
- What is the time commitmentfor each member to consider?
The most effective volunteer boards have clear goals and objectives. Each member should understand how they will contribute to the board and why they have been chosen to participate. There is no set number for board members, and the size of your board will depend on your current and future revenue considerations.Each individual should contribute to a specific area of growth and provide professional advice and support.
As a business leader, consider each meeting as an incubator of creativity in which you may freely discuss ideas for current and future planning. Confidentiality is key, as the information shared throughout the meetings will affect the future of your business. For that reason, consider drafting a non-disclosure agreement as part of the development of your advisory board. Once you’ve chosen the members, include a moderator. The moderator is tasked with maintaining a focused discussion and providing detailed minutes that include clearly-defined next steps and action items, along with their expected completion dates.
Taking Notes and Keeping it Brief
Lightbulb moments are often overlooked or forgotten if no one is taking notes. Coming to a consensus is not always necessary when making decisions. The discussion may highlight alternative solutions that require additional investigation, and not every member needs to agree with an idea before you act. Be mindful of the time commitment; we’ve all heard the saying, “If you need to get something done, just ask a busy person.”
Your board members will be more willing to contribute if they are assured that their participation will not disrupt their lives outside of the board. While they have volunteered their expertise, keep in mind they also have their own business, and participation should not be so onerous as to interrupt their personal and professional lives.
Putting it Into Action
In today’s global economy, it is always a good idea to be well prepared. When you create a trusted board of advisors, you will have a number of supportive mentors gathered in one place; take advantage of that opportunity, and being prepared is the best way to ensure the success of your future meetings. Once you’ve decided on the logistics, create and distribute a white paper or communication package a few weeks prior to the meeting so that everyone has the chance to review the information and formulate their thoughts before the meeting.
After every meeting, follow-up is essential. Taking the time to provide periodic updates will ensure that everyone involved in your advisory board feels appreciated for their eﬀorts and that their contributions have been taken into consideration. Every member will enjoy the experience if their contributions are noted and acknowledged. This will demonstrate your professionalism and gratitude for the skills and expertise shared by each board member.
Trish Tonaj is a coach, author and passionate believer in the power of mentorship. With over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience and through her books “A Diary of Change: 12 Personal Tools” and “Breaking Barriers”, she has helped business owners and enterprise leaders to reach their full potential while creating a culture of success along the way.