Who do you turn to when you need business advice? If you’re structured as a corporation, you may have a board of directors to ask for important input. If you’re a sole proprietor, owning a business can be a lonely endeavor. You probably miss the days when you could ask your boss for advice or a few coworkers what they would do in a certain situation.
One way to get this type of insight for your small business is to create your own board of advisors. A board of advisors is an informal group of people you can bring together who will offer you business advice and input.
So how do you put together this awesome group? You can probably already think of a couple of people you really want on your advisory team, but here's a few ideas to get you started.
Fellow Business Owners
You want a wide range of people from different industries whose advice can benefit your company. Local business owners from your area are the best because they know they’re also familiar with the business environment you’re working in and how to compete there. Think about each person’s skills, background and knowledge. Ask people you trust to recommend possible advisors.
Friends (and Friends of Friends)
As a successful entrepreneur, you probably have other successful friends. It doesn’t matter if they are also business owners. In fact, your friends have great insight as consumers. Is there a certain friend who is always up on the latest trends? You want that person on your board of advisors.
If you know of someone who has mentored other business owners or has experience in mentoring, ask that person to sit in on your board meetings to offer their insight and advice.
It’s important to have someone on your board who knows financial issues and can offer insight from that perspective.
Put your expectations and the board’s responsibilities in writing, so the members will take their commitments seriously. Have the participants sign nondisclosure agreements (to protect your business ideas) and release of liability forms (to protect them if they give you bad advice).
Decide on a meeting schedule—once a month or every other month is a good time frame. What kind of compensation do people consider adequate? For some, just getting away from their regular routines to have coffee and donuts is enough. Or they might want stock in your business or a token fee.
A good board can help you solve all kinds of problems, as long as you’re open to suggestions. So be open and gain as much insight as possible to grow your business.
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