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WTF is an Advisory Board?

What is this “Advisory Board” thing I speak of?

Simple – It is something you MUST have if you want to be successful with your small business.

#micdrop #endofblog #justkidding

Here is my definition:

“An Advisory Board is a diverse group of respected professionals that a business owner can rely on for business counsel and accountability on a consistent and ongoing basis.”

Look it up in Webster’s – you’ll see my name there. Ok – maybe not. That is definitely my definition only, but it’s also my blog so I get to do that kind of thing.

Definitions aside, the purpose of this group of people is all about a very powerful four-letter word for most small business owners – accountability. I know that is not four letters, but it can often be just as offensive to many business owners as most of your favorite four-letter words.

Without diving too deep into the psychological side of things, the reason that accountability is a “challenge” for many business owners, especially small business owners, is that oftentimes the reason they went into business is that they weren’t the best rule followers and by definition like to do their own thing. To their credit, that is absolutely required to run a small business. To their detriment, however, every small business owner needs someone to “call them out” when it is appropriate and necessary.

And therein lies the challenge – they started a small business to do their “own” thing, and here I am suggesting that they need someone to keep an eye on them. Have I lost my mind?!

(Attention small business owners – stay with me here – don’t block or flame me yet – pretty please.)

NOTE: Don’t get hung up on the word “board”. I am not suggesting a “managing” board that you would need to formally report to. No, they cannot fire you. The suggestion here is a group to act in an advisory capacity. So if the word “board” winds you up, call it whatever you’d like – Advisory Panel, Advisory Group, Group of Ball Busters, etc. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

Here’s the deal – everybody, without exception, needs accountability. If you think that you are beyond accountability, then good luck and God bless. (The first step in fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.) You simply cannot hold yourself truly accountable. You don’t have to like that fact, you just have to deal with it.

What does a business owner do with said group of professionals to be made accountable?  Great question!

In order to be “held accountable”, you will need to explain to them what exactly it is that you are doing with your business and how it currently performing. You also need to be willing to truly listen to candid feedback – good or not-so-good.

TIP: Make sure that the team you put in place for this has full clearance to “bust your chops” as hard as they need to be busted. They should feel comfortable poking holes in your plan and questioning anything they see.

What I would suggest is that you present to your Advisory Board on a quarterly basis regarding at least three key areas:

  1. Current performance of the business
  2. Plans for the coming quarter
  3. Any major issues/challenges

If you get nothing else out of the discussion with your board, just going through the process of preparing a presentation like this will provide you tremendous value right there. Done deal. If done properly, it will force you to think about some key areas in a different way.

When you are forced to present a topic to someone, you always think about it differently than when you are just bouncing it around in your brain. Questions that you take for granted and rarely truly consider will come up. Things like:

  1. How is the business really doing?
  2. What goals do we have?
  3. How are we measuring our performance and progress towards our goals?
  4. What help do I need?
  5. What is the plan?
  6. Is my plan solid and well vetted?
  7. Do I have the right team in place to execute on my plan?
  8. What am I missing?

The first time you do this my guess is that you will block off a Friday afternoon to bang it out for your Monday meeting. Once you get into the “meat” of it and start really thinking, reality will hit and you will end up not sleeping much over the weekend – spending most of it in front of your laptop pulling data together and trying to format it in a way that makes sense to someone else.

Even if you never actually present it, you have just received HUGE value. Going through the exercise of translating what is in your brain into something that someone else can understand and then ask questions about it is an exhausting, but very, very rewarding process and your business will thank you for the effort.

The benefit here is not just in the process of pulling together the presentation, but if the advisory team you put together is solid, then there should also be value in their questions, feedback, comments, and suggestions. In theory, that should have more value than the process itself – but that will depend heavily on the team itself.

TIP: The team you recruit for this should also be expected to offer suggestions, advice, and some constructive feedback. This is not all about beating you up. It’s about another set of eyeballs on what you are doing and your plan.

The end result of every meeting with your Advisory Board should be that it HELPS you and your business.

There are all sorts of details around how many members should be part of this group, should you compensate them, frequency of meetings, ongoing communication, etc.  I will save that for some future writing as there are many variables to each of those points.

Think about it this way – almost all larger organizations have some sort of “board” for various reasons. There is no reason not to leverage that concept with a slight twist for your small business. Trust me – there is value here.

If you take nothing else from this blog, at least take this point:

YOU NEED ACCOUNTABILITY!!

We all do – no joke.

Now go find some smart people to help you and your business.

Tick tock…your business is waiting.