Running a small business can be difficult. Certain efficiencies will hinge on the fundamental work of specialized “subject-matter” staff or outside professionals, for example accountants to oversee finances and lawyers to oversee contracts. But as the top dog of your company, you are still left with “mission critical” duties that will drive overall success. It is important not to fall into the trap of doing everything yourself, of relying solely on yourself to keep the business moving in the right direction.
For that reason, I suggest you form an informal Board of Advisors to help you navigate the core areas of the business. An informal Board with diverse areas of experience can be advantageous to your business operations by evaluating opportunities you may want to seize upon and advising on strategies to overcome challenges and obstacles. A business owner can choose whether to act on the Board’s advice, while the Board has no true obligation or legal authority—hence, an informal advisory group.
Here are a few things to consider if you are thinking about forming an informal Board of Advisors:
Decide whom you want
Your Board of Advisors should be comprised of professionals with varying areas of expertise that have already experienced the stage of business you are currently navigating. Ideally they will be able to apply their “life lessons” to your circumstances. You want suggestions and guidance from people that can offer sage advice about building a business as well as running one.
How to get them interested
Once you decide who you would like to have on your Board, you must communicate with them to determine their interest in participating. Formulate a simple, single-page outline of your business and your plans for Board involvement including frequency of meetings, compensation, and any expectations you might have. Schedule an initial conversation so you can gauge interest level, answer questions, and determine if they will work well on the Board. You also want to see if all potential advisors will mesh together. (You want the interactions of your Board of Advisors to be a win-win-win, so take your time and choose carefully.)
Will you offer compensation?
This can be a sensitive area, however even a modest token of your appreciation for their time and participation will go a long way. A Board that feels recognized as doing helpful, hard-earned work is a cohesive, high functioning Board. And while you might not be able to offer much in the way of pay, be sure to provide meals and cover transportation costs incurred in getting to meetings.
Schedule the dates, keep to the agenda, and run structured meetings
Nothing rankles more than a meeting that accomplishes nothing and runs for too long. You can avoid this feeling by distributing a detail agenda at least one week prior to the meeting. Participants may want to gather information beforehand, especially if they are borrowing “real world” examples from their own company or firms. Don’t expect to cover everything in one meeting. Focus intently on one or two topics, and utilize the time allotted for an in-depth analysis so you can steer the meeting’s direction and obtain answers as needed.
Being a business owner need not be an isolating endeavor. An informal Board of Advisors can provide the impartial and objective direction that is often difficult to find when working alone.