When you are starting out in business, you will recognise that it can be a very lonely experience.
You may have a couple of key people who are your ‘go to’ resource for advice. It is quite common for business owners to reach out to a former colleague, mentor, maybe a family member or even their accountant.
However, there comes a time in every entrepreneur’s business journey when they recognise they need more than just casual advice. The formation of an advisory board with the right mix of skills, experience and talent is often critical to the long term success of the business venture.
I have practiced what I have preached over many years to start-up, early stage, SME and substantial private businesses.
I have always surrounded myself with people who are smarter, wiser, better connected, and have made mistakes, so I could learn from them.
I have invited the ‘best of the best’ to join me on my advisory board, including two mega high-profile recruitment industry icons.
I have paid the most I could possibly afford to gain access to advisors who were prepared to share their insights with me – wealthy and successful entrepreneurs who didn’t need the work, but were prepared to show me how I could grow a profitable business.
In addition, I have also been very fortunate to have accessed high-profile business executives who could help open doors for my business.
So, how can you do the same for your business?
Here are my five top tips to help you assemble your dream team advisory board.
- Start small
There is nothing wrong with initially working with only one or two advisors. Start with a trial period to see how you work together and don’t commit to lengthy engagements. You can add advisory board members as you grow and as your business requirements change.
I have always been of the belief that you get what you pay for in life and you cannot expect top level advice to come for free, so set a budget for your advisory board and go about finding the very best talent you can afford. If an advisory board member is not adding value to your business, don’t be afraid to part ways.
- Search for similarities
Select at least one business advisor who is an entrepreneur who has successfully grown a business similar to yours. Accessing advice from a proven entrepreneur who can share insights into how to grow your business, review your business strategy and avoid mistakes will be critical to your success.
- Look for broad knowledge
Specialist accountants and lawyers don’t always make the best advisors so look for someone who understands the numbers and business contracts, has broad commercial acumen and can assist in practical ways to help grow the business.
Partner with your accounting firm to make sure you have monthly accounts prepared, this is critical to your dashboard of information which will underpin many of your business decisions.
- Seek industry veterans
Industry veterans and captains of industry are more accessible than you might think. However, they often will only engage if their involvement remains private.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to business leaders if you believe that they can assist you, but don’t expect them to work for free. They are usually very busy and will only engage if they genuinely like you and the business. You must be respectful of their time and demonstrate a willingness to take their advice on board.
- Gather a mixture of talent
Find talents who have skills and expertise in areas where you are lacking, as your advisory board can help fill some of those gaps.
A regular monthly meeting works well, as does one-on-one meetings with your advisors when you want to do a deep dive on business matters. There are no set rules here, you can make advisory board meetings as formal or as unstructured as you like, but regular meetings are important to build a successful relationship with your advisors.
I cannot overstate how important my advisors have been to me over the years. My advisory board changes in mix from time to time depending on the venture and the challenges ahead, but there have been some advisors who I have worked with for more than a decade.
My advisory board has opened doors, prevented significant and costly errors in judgment, kept me upbeat when I wanted to give it all away, and helped me raise capital. They kept me accountable, keeping our business strategy and its execution on track.
And, most importantly, throughout all of their collective wisdom and advice, they only ever had my best interests at heart – even if that meant saying things that I didn’t want to hear on the day.
I have been truly blessed as I have had a dream team around me, and I recommend to every business owner that they put in place their own amazing talented group of advisors.
About Kylie Hammond
Kylie Hammond, CEO of Director Institute, is a leading board and executive search and board talent management consultant and Australia’s foremost CEO business mentor. She is passionate about helping executives create portfolio careers which can include a main employment contract, combined with not-for-profit work, board appointments, speaking and coaching or mentoring engagements.