A great business can’t be built alone. Everyone needs help one way or another. No matter what your business, industry or business age, you will always lean on others for business advice or even just for an opinion on something [because you don’t know what you don’t know].

So don’t go at it alone … why not reap the benefits of a trusted advisory board? An advisory board is a collection of individuals that come together to provide advice and insights to business owners and managers with the objective of making better business decisions. Now, this isn’t to be confused with a ‘Corporate Board’ of directors who establish company policies, set and approve budgets etc.  An advisory board can offer you flexible and unbinding advice that you as the business owner, director or manager are free to choose whether or not to implement the advice.

Benefits of an advisory board include;

  • Filling knowledge and experience gaps that you may have within your business
  • Providing a greater number of years experience than you already posses
  • Introducing a devil’s advocate to your business decision-making process
  • New ideas from a totally different perspective and maybe even some insights on future trends
  • Solve problems or barriers to success specific to your business drawing on experiences from other businesses

Let’s explore some of the key things you need to consider when setting up your advisory board:

set clearly defined objectives

Before you start calling upon people to form your advisory board, you must clearly define the objectives of the advisory board upfront. These objectives can be defined anyway you like, but the focus is usually on bigger picture discussions or problem-solving around the implementation of strategic plans. That said, I have seen them work well to simply support management as they implement growth strategies or to improve the managers’ awareness and understanding of their business. The objectives can be whatever you want them to be:

  • Formation of strategy
  • Exploration of new ideas
  • Mentoring
  • Discipline
  • Review of performance

lay down the rules

I suggest documenting the rules of the advisory board. Things like;

  • expect honesty [even if controversial]
  • complete openness and transparency
  • confidentiality
  • share mistakes
  • no question is a silly question

One really important rule is to not waste the time of the members of the advisory board. Irrespective of whether they are paid or not, no one likes their time wasted, so make sure you’re organised!

choose the right people

Identify the gaps in the existing resources available and then find the right people for your advisory board. Making sure you have the right people for you, your business and your problem is critical. They can be friends and family but look for some new blood as well, especially if you’re after some new ideas and experiences.

Here are some things to consider when choosing people for your advisory board:

  • People with different skills within the same industry work well
  • Someone with similar skills from outside your industry can also make a great addition
  • Maybe add invited guests at different meetings when specialist problems arise
  • Bring people in who specialize in an area you’re not great at or an area you are focusing on for a certain period
  • Diversity is good
  • Make sure the members are able to communicate well
  • No ‘yes’ men

set out the structure of your advisory board meetings

Preparation is key! Make sure you have an agenda set out before you hold the advisory board meetings. This way you can address the topics, seek advice and hold discussions without going off track and it turning into a social affair.

A few things you should think about when setting up the structure:

  • Ask for input on the agenda
  • Circulate papers beforehand and ensure all members have read the circulated documents beforehand
  • Have a secretary to take minutes
  • Have a chairman to keep the meeting on topic
  • Make sure your facilities are suitable for the effective meeting
  • Always end discussions with a list of actions and who is going to do what by when

your physical premises matter

Where you physically hold your advisory board meetings matter too.  Don’t meet at a coffee shop or restaurant – they are too noisy and there are too many distractions.  Here are some other tips to make sure physical premises are right for a successful advisory board meetings;

  • Get a whiteboard [I know this is a basic one but people communicate better when they have the ability to draw it for the room to see]
  • Have a TV and/or computer ready to skype [or equivalent online meeting application], someone, if they’re unavailable in person
  • Have a screen to display documents, slides and proposals to everyone [one version on the screen keeps everyone in the same place]
  • Make sure everyone is comfortable
  • Minimise paper
  • Remove any distractions – maybe hold meetings outside of your office [our office is available to clients and collective members at no cost if a change of scenery would help]

Having an advisory board can be a great asset to you and your business. Think of it as a collaboration tool – and true collaboration can deliver incredible results and growth for your business.

Let’s start the discussion

Over to you, have you already started implementing an advisory board for your business or already have one in place? What effect has it had on your business success?

At businessDEPOT, we love growing businesses, and one way we can do that is by helping you successfully plan and implement an advisory board for your business. Of course, if someone from our office would fill a skill or experience gap in your business, we would love to help with that too.  If you wish to discuss more about how we can help you along the way, just give us a call on 07 3193 3000.