Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Launching your Business: Building a Strong Advisory Board

Every business should have an advisory board. A strong advisory board brings experience and advice to your company without the cost of high business consulting fees. You need a group of people who know about things you don’t; people who possess the skills and attributes that your business requires to be successful.

So, how do you find these knowledgeable people? Remember, it’s not just about who you know, but who your friends know. Widen the circle; don’t just think of the 100 people you know, but the 100 people each of them knows as well. Let’s say you are not great with numbers and you don’t personally know a CPA; chances are likely one of your friends knows one.

The first thing you should do is make up about a dozen 3-ring binders that you will hand out to your advisory board. The binder will contain three sections:

Executive Summary: Provide a short description of your company; just the information that will be important to your Board of Advisors.

Statement of Purpose: The value of or the purpose your Board of Advisors will serve as they make a difference in your business; tell them why they will be valuable to you.

Sample Agenda: Show an example of an agenda for a 1-hour meeting

Members’ Bios: Of course, this section cannot be filled until the group is formed. Provide a short bio of each existing member and their contact information, so when you’re soliciting new members, they get to see who else is on this team.

Make a list of the special skills that you would need the members of your advisory board to possess, and then look for those people. Make an appointment to see “Mr. CPA.” Call his office; leave a message with the receptionist that you would like a 5 minute appointment with Mr. CPA. Be sure to stress that you promise to only take 5 minutes of his time.

When you go in to see “Mr. CPA, introduce yourself and hand him a binder, explaining, briefly what it contains. Then, say something like, “I want to surround myself with people like you, so I can take my business to a whole new level.” If you already have some members who are well known in the community, show him the section with the bios, “Perhaps you know so and so, who is also a business owner in our area.”

Then show the sample agenda, “Go ahead and contact some of the other members on the board. We meet monthly and meetings do not go over one hour. I don’t expect you to say yes now, so I will leave you this book and look forward to hearing from you. I promised to only take 5 minutes of your time, so I’ll leave you to think this over.”

Of course, you can stay and talk if he encourages it, but at this point you have accomplished something huge in just 5 minutes. You made a great impression by complimenting him, showing your respect, and keeping your promise to only take up 5 minutes of his time. This is a great display of your integrity.

The Monthly Meetings

A lot will be accomplished in these monthly meetings of only 1 hour each, so they should be held somewhere where everyone can easily make it on time and where everyone will be able to focus on the agenda and the objective. The meeting should not be in a noisy fast food place, in your warehouse, or in the office where phones are ringing.

Rent a small conference room at a hotel where there will be plenty of space, a conference table and comfortable, professional environment. Meetings will likely take place after work, from 6pm to 7pm, when many people are home eating dinner, so be sure to provide something light to show you care and that you appreciate them postponing their dinner to meet with you.

Provide additional pens, note pads and any other supplies you might need to help things go more smoothly. A flip chart with markers might be useful.

As you promised at the 5 minute meeting with Mr. CPA, be sure to hand out the agenda and start on time, so everyone can be home when they promised their family they would be. Keep to the agenda as much as possible and make sure the meeting does not go over one hour.

If you should end up in a debate or a lengthy conversation that causes you to spend too much time on a topic, then you will have to wrap things up, when the hour is up, and postpone the remaining items on the agenda for the next meeting. Do not ask if it is OK to run a little late; everyone will likely say “yes” but they will not be happy and they may not be as willing to continue being on your board of advisors if this becomes a habit.

When planning your next agenda, be sure to start with “old business” where you relate back to your advisors who provided ideas during the last meeting. Tell them that you have been thinking about their idea and when you plan to implement it. Or, if you’re not sure if you’re ready for this action at this time; let them know. They will be happy that you are showing them respect by listening to them and remembering what they had to say.

When soliciting for members to your advisory board, you have the opportunity to display your integrity by keeping your word. Once they are members of your advisory board, you will want to keep their respect by showing them your respect. Be thoughtful of their needs, appreciative of all their advice and thankful for their support.

Bill Bartmann is happy to be a member of several advisory boards, where he shares his experiences with other entrepreneurs to help make a difference in the world of business ownership. Bill Bartmann is the creator of the Billionaire Business Systems, an online business essentials course for entrepreneurs. His series of videos, books and seminars has helped many entrepreneurs succeed in business even during tough economic times.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative; I've heard a lot about advisory boards and master mind groups. Great concept!