You’ve done everything right. You’ve grown your business to a certain size, but you’ve noticed areas where you could use additional expertise. How can you develop an edge for your business?
Your internal leadership team can’t always provide you with the advice you need to take your organization to the next level. So how do you keep your business growing and add the critical elements to help you make it a sustainable company? Many years ago, I discovered the secret and its why many of my best clients have grown faster and more profitably than others in their industries. What’s the secret and, more importantly, how can it help your business? The secret is an advisory board.
What should you expect from an advisory board? The first characteristic you should understand is that the people on your advisory board provide complementary capabilities. When you start to build one you have much more flexibility than you will later on. One of my shortcuts is adding the right people onto your advisory board from the start. I have found having the right people with the right attitudes at the beginning help you attract better people over time.
The second characteristic is this board doesn’t have fiduciary responsibilities. This means you can attract people who can offer good advice without fear of being sued. This provides you with a wider range of expertise applied in a more creative way. You have greater flexibility in choosing your team members. In the past, many of my clients wouldn’t permit their executives to serve on other organizations’ boards, however, many are fine with them serving an advisory role.
If you want a strong advisory board you must invest the time to get good at sharing your organization’s and your own story. You need to help advisors see the bigger picture of your business and where you’re going. That way they can provide you the most value. You must be willing to invest your time in recruiting a high caliber team. If you do, you may be pleasantly surprised by who will work with you.
By sharing the differences and the advantages of an advisory board with potential advisors I’ve helped my clients attract great talent to their startup advisory boards. For many startups, you want to be systematic in who you add to your team. Also, remember to stress you’re looking for advice based on their experiences and strengths.
Many successful entrepreneurs are looking for opportunities to share their unique gifts and strengths as an advisor. This means you should still prepare when approaching a potential board member. You still have to sell the opportunity to the potential advisor. Over the years I found the intangible benefits many times will outweigh the compensation piece of the puzzle.
Always remember that your advisors have many choices in where they invest their time and energy. Make your organization one they want to get involved with. I’ve heard too many nightmare stories where an entrepreneur tries to recruit an individual and then, when turned down, or they decide to go a different direction, the potential advisor never hears from the entrepreneur again. It’s a communication process. And it doesn’t take much to burn the bridge or get a bad reputation in the market. I’ve found many great advisors one person away from the person I approached first. Take time to make sure you keep in contact with the people you choose. You cannot imagine the doors many of your more entrepreneurial advisors can open for you and your organization.
Next week, I’ll share several reasons people might serve on your advisory board. These are the intangibles that make serving on your board a success for both you and your advisory team members.
Thursday we talk about how Steve Jobs used storytelling and exceptional communication techniques to set Apple apart from its competition. See you then.