I often receive e-mails from business owners asking for advice in marketing, publicity, finance, business tips, and operations management. Unfortunately, most of the advice I give has to be in fairly general terms. Because, in order to give advice that will benefit each specific business, I would need to fully understand the dynamics of each individual situation, industry, demographics, opportunity, etc. This would take more time than I have to give without having to start charging for it. However, many small business owners and entrepreneurs – both online and offline – overlook one of the best ways to get FREE advice for their businesses . . . forming an advisory board.
The best advisory boards are made up of business owners and professionals who will ALL benefit from its formation. Here’s how to put one together (business tips):
Itemize the “give and take.”
Make two lists: one of the skills and expertise that you have to offer others. And another of the skills and expertise that you need (from others) to better operate your own business.
For instance, are you a whiz at dreaming up great promotions but a bust at understanding the tax laws that affect your business? Can you cold call with the best of them, but unsure of how to put together an impressive client presentation?
Know what your strengths are and where your weaknesses fall. It will help to determine whom to approach about forming your mutually beneficial advisory board.
Seek out, potential board members.
Finding your board members may be easier than you think.
Do you belong to an association or the local chamber of commerce? Don’t just attend the meetings – network to find good board member candidates and to spread the word about what you’re trying to accomplish. Ask contacts for other names of entrepreneurs, chief executive officers of small, privately held companies or consultants to small businesses. Talk to your banker, vendors or accountant and ask them for leads. Review the business section of your local newspaper or specific business listings from the yellow pages of a telephone directory.
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Contact each prospective member individually.
Once you’ve chosen candidates, call each one to introduce yourself, discuss your objectives and determine the mutual benefits of forming the board. If you do not personally know the individual, invite him/her to lunch to get acquainted. Tell prospective board members about your business, market and specific challenges. Invite them to tour your offices and meet your employees. Give them your company brochure and relevant industry information.
Know what you want to accomplish.
How often you meet will be determined by what you want to accomplish. There may be times when one-on-one meetings will be more productive. But schedule full board meetings no less than quarterly to solicit input and feedback about your specific business objectives, progress, and accomplishments. Remember that members are there to ADVISE you, not to do the work FOR you. While you may eventually decide to barter for services with other members, that is a separate action from the intent and purpose of an advisory board and should be negotiated outside of the board meetings.
Be prepared to get what you ask for.
Understand that when you ask for advice, honest feedback and others’ opinions, criticism will often creep into the mix. Suppress your natural reflex to defend your actions, listen to your peers and use the information constructively.
If an advisory board sounds too formal for your fledgling business. But you still need access to one-on-one expert advice, contact the nearest chapter of SCORE. This organization of retired executives can prove to be an excellent resource to help answer your questions and connect you with free or low-cost resources.
I hope you liked these points or business tips. Share with friends. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed.