Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strengthening Your Business Using Advisory Boards

A small business or start-up that is approaching a major change – expanding into a new market; launching a new product line; breaking into a foreign market – may decide that it needs help or coaching before taking on this business challenge. For many such companies, the best tool is the establishment of an advisory board. While there are no set rules about setting up such a body, it generally is comprised of seasoned, experienced professionals from outside the business. A well-balanced, effective board can become an indispensable tool to help strengthen a business professionally and help it advance its goals.

As the purpose of the board is to be advisory, not operational, its members should be appropriate to the task at hand. If your goal is expansion of the business, the board members should be able to provide you with business leads and contacts. A business seeking to strengthen its executive team should recruit board members who can serve as mentors to the top staff and provide business skills. When financial contacts are your need, recruit business people from the financial world.

Of course, only you can evaluate the effectiveness of an advisory board. You must establish clear objectives and delineate the benchmarks that the board should reach. Also, be prepared to compensate board members fairly. These are professional people whose time has value to it. It is well advised that you seek the majority of your advisors from within your own personal contacts. After all, this is your company and complete strangers may be professionally appropriate but can you work with them?

Finally, don't get carried away with establishing a board with many members. Keep the number manageable so that the board will become a workable group. Quality, not quantity, is what counts.

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