By David Paul Carter
One of the greatest assets you can have as an owner/entrepreneur is an Advisory Board. Running a business is simply easier if you have some help from a group of trusted individuals dedicated to seeing you succeed.
Marissa Levin, founder and CEO of Information Experts, a strategic communication company, more than doubled her revenues in the past three years. And she's the first to tell you she couldn't have done it alone. Her secret sauce: A great advisory board.
When her company was stuck at $5 million and not overcoming roadblocks, she was advised to put a board of advisors in place – a group of people you hand select that can help get over your problems. Last year, the firm, based in Reston, VA, brought in $11 million in sales.
She's been so happy with her experience that she's even written a book to help other CEOs, called SCALE: How Top Companies Create Breakthrough Growth Through Exceptional Advisory Boards.
If you don't have a board of advisors in place, now is a good time to start. A great board of advisors can be a vital sounding board and source of strategic insights, helping you to grow your company. With today's global uncertainty, you can't afford not to have one.
How to Construct Your Advisory Board
Where do you start if you do not have an advisory board today? First decide your company's top 3 to 5 year key thrusts, and then pick the smartest people you know who have already been where you're about to go and seek their help.
Here are some guidelines in creating your Advisory Board.
1. Find the right talent
Recruit the right board members–experts who can help strengthen your company in key areas. Levin's six-member board includes an entrepreneur, who has helped with project management, and the former head of one of the government agencies her firm works with, who has sparked business development. Seek professionals with experience in your important niches and who are “hands on.” See my June blog “Three People You Must Have on Your Advisory Board” for more on the right talent.
2. Make it structured
One of the big mistakes that growth companies make in creating an advisory board is that they're too relaxed about it. That won't get you the results you want.
Nurse Next Door, a 60-unit franchise chain based in Vancouver, had a three member advisory board. It met every two months, and though the company would send the advisors a report two weeks before the meetings, everything was pretty informal. Result: It just ended up stopping and advisors wouldn't show up to meetings.
About a year ago, the company formed a new board and brought in three new advisors. They meet every month for four to eight hours and hold a two-day annual retreat. The company makes it worth their while financially.
3. Enforce accountability
The new board has required Nurse Next Door's team to stay on top of key performance indicators–from financial metrics to risk factors. Every month, the leadership formally reports to the board. This creates more discipline in the company's actions and thought. This accountability insures an improved team.
A good advisory board challenges you at every board meeting. These “intellectually challenging debates” lead to decisions that help your company grow. It's all part of a brutally honest dialogue – you need to have advisors who will challenge you.
Every major business decision you make can be enhanced and refined by your board of advisors. Start with just two or three advisors. Get some outside help and perspective.
Contact David Paul Carter today at 267-908-3180 or firstname.lastname@example.org for help in creating your board of advisors.
Copyright 2012 David Paul Carter. All rights reserved. Company examples in this article are derived from “Advisory Boards that Work” by Verne Harnish.