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An advisory board is a group of professionals representing different areas of business, who can assist you in making decisions and offer advice in steering your business into the future. On the most basic level, pulling your accountant, lawyer, banker, and insurance person together to meet would be considered an advisory board. You may, however, want to recruit "fresh blood" so as to diversify the advice you are receiving. Many experts suggest using new people from the local community rather than those you have hired to do a specific job.
What will the advisory board bring to your business? Expertise for sure and new ideas to consider and possibly implement. When you successfully recruit advisors, you will receive a wealth of knowledge from these people's own personal experiences. This will allow you to avoid mistakes that others have made. Your advisory board may also lead you to sources of capital for your business and will definitely expand your current professional network. With each person you recruit as an advisor, comes all of his or her own personal networks.
First, ask yourself what kind of people you need to fill what roles. You may wind up with a list that includes: a financial consultant, a marketing director, an accountant, a legal analyst, an Internet technology expert. Brainstorm who you know (or have heard about) from local networks that could fill these roles. Avoid placing personal friends on your advisory board. You may not receive honest feedback from them and you also run the risk of losing the friendship. Many entrepreneurs are afraid to ask for help from professionals --especially successful corporate leaders. Put away your fears and go for it. Many executives consider board membership a part of their job anyway and others are happy to help a business grow and join them in success.
When putting an advisory board together, look at them as a team rather than as a sum of individual strengths. Even with the best of the best recruited, you won't do well if the group does not meld. This is hard to predict, but look for individuals who are flexible, tolerant, and open to new ideas and experiences. Make sure too that the people selected actually have the time to give to you and your business. If not, you will be disappointed by their lack of commitment.
Once recruited, make sure to give the advisory group the information they need. Let each person know why they were chosen, make sure he/she understands your company's mission and goals, and give the group as a whole focused tasks and what you expect of them. Don't just have meetings to update the group on what you and your staff are doing. Have them work too. Professionals in the field will not want to waste their time listening or trying to guess what you want from them. Be clear!
How you manage your advisory board will determine how successful they are as a group. Be prepared for meetings with them. Keep each advisor up to date of your company's progress and follow through on the suggestions/advice they give.
You most certainly must be asking: "Do I need to pay my advisory board members?" The answer is "Yes!” You may be able to recruit professionals who will be an advisor without pay, but remember the old adage: "you get what you pay for." According to Inc. magazine, you should pay your advisory board and/or board of directors between $1000 and $4000 per meeting. Sound expensive? It is. Other options include giving stock options or some combination of cash and stock. Click here for more information on paying advisors.
Want to know more about advisory boards? Visit Inc. Magazine - Selected Articles.
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