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This article was originally featured in the October 2012 issue of MediaPlanet
In an increasingly complex business environment, entrepreneurs need a broad range of knowledge and skills. Consider something like expanding into the U.S.; talking to someone who has already gone
through the process saves time, money and headaches. Taking a lesson from public companies and establishing an advisory board links business owners to knowledge and fresh perspectives that can make for stronger business decisions. The following tips will help you create and get the most out of your own advisory board.
Find the right people
Look at the elements of your strategic plan and evaluate where additional expertise will be useful, then locate individuals who have the knowledge you need most. You also want people who can think strategically and creatively, and who are willing to speak up if they don’t agree with you. Meeting with a group of advisors who all agree with everything you say has zero value, so you want people willing to challenge you. This doesn’t mean you, as the business owner, won’t go ahead and do what you think is best. But it does mean that you will understand other perspectives and will have an opportunity to think through pros, cons and alternative solutions before making your decision. There is no right size for a private advisory board; anywhere from three to eight members is typical. Start with a few trusted advisors and allow them to introduce you to others in their networks to layer in expertise.
Create the right environment
You’re meeting with your board and have a great idea for a new product. What do they think? If all thumbs turn down it can be a bit of a blow. When advisory board arrangements fail, it is often because the environment becomes one of confrontation. To avoid that, set clear expectations and assure board members, and yourself, that you know that their feedback is not personal. Remember that you’ve asked this group to chime in because they have insight and perspectives that you couldn’t access otherwise, and that just might lead to an even more brilliant idea that transforms your business for the better.
Define board and management roles
Boards of public companies have an important governance role, something that can be off-putting to private business owners. In the vast majority of cases, private companies don’t require, and certainly
don’t desire, board governance. But if the relationship is structured so that management of the company is left to management and the board simply serves as a sounding board and a source of knowledge and information, the results can be very powerful.
Client Groups:Private Enterprise
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