with Aliza Sherman
If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.
To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.
If your business is a corporation, then you are probably familiar with assembling and managing a board of directors (a topic we can cover in the future, however, if you’d like). But do you have a board of advisors?
What exactly is a board of advisors?
A board of advisors is not a formal and controlled as a board of directors. The latter is formed as part of the incorporation process and the directors deal with all aspects of a business, including legal issues. Advisors are more like “turbo mentors” and tend to be on hand for smaller businesses that don’t have a lot of varied in-house expertise.
Boards of advisors typically have between 3-7 members - any more than that can become harder to manage. The real purpose behind getting advisors for your business is to build a strong and active network of experts in their field - people you can trust with information about the inner workings of your company. Your advisors should be willing and able to be on hand to answer those burning business questions that keep you up at night.
How do you know if you need advisors?
Everyone needs advisors - but knowing who you need requires some assessment. Take a look at your staff - or if you are a company of one, realistically assess what you do well and where you could use a little - or a lot - of help.
Advisors are not your “dream team” such as a lawyer, accountant or bookkeeper - they aren’t going to do the work for you. But they can refer you to the right people, give you practical advice and voice their opinions to give you that reality check that others might not feel comfortable giving.
Who should be on your Board of Advisors?
Some valuable areas of expertise for any business include:
1. Human Resources
2. Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing
6. Customer Service
7. Global business
Think about where you want your business to go. Maybe right now you aren’t doing business internationally, but it’s in your plan to expand globally in the next 3 years. Bring on an advisor with global business experience. If global expansion is not in your future, save that slot for someone else.
How do you get an advisor?
Once you’ve solidified a list of the types of advisors you need based on the expertise you’d like to have, you need to identify people who can fill those roles. Where can you find the people you need?
1. Tap into your network.
2. Use networking tools such as WorkItMom! or LinkedIn to distribute your request.
3. Attend networking events and ask around.
4. Peruse your local Chamber of Commerce membership directory.
5. Approach an expert you’ve seen speak on a related topic.
6. Approach someone you’ve read about in a local publication.
Getting warm leads and referrals is always optimal in order to have a real comfort level with your advisors, but it certainly isn’t a requirement that you know them personally.
Approaching someone is as easy and straightforward as introducing yourself and saying that you are building your Board of Advisors and would like to discuss the possibility of their involvement. Most people will be flattered to be asked.
Make sure you know in advance what kind of commitment you expect from your advisors including how you’d like to communicate with them (e-mail, in person, by phone, all of the above) and how many hours per month they’ll need to be available to you.
A board of advisors doesn’t necessarily need to meet together like a board of directors, but getting them all together on a semi-regular basis can be helpful to make sure everyone is on the same page.
And remember to keep your advisors informed of your company’s progress so their advice to you is current and relevant.
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