You can’t know everything as an entrepreneur, but you can come close by forming an advisory board. An advisory board consists comprised of trusted experts who are committed to your start-up’s growth and success. Their job is to identify and achieve and any all of your business’ objectives as a businessman or businesswoman. They’ll also provide you with advice and different perspectives that can help take the start-up to new heights. Carole Hambleton-Moster, a board member of several non-profit organizations, offers her expertise on a few things to keep in mind when you form your advisory board.
Carole Hambleton-Moser’s 5 Tips for Building an Advisory Board:
1. Make Sure Everyone’s on the Same Page
One of your tasks as an entrepreneur involves making sure that your team’s efforts are focused on a common path towards one goal. An all-star team won’t get anywhere if no one makes sure they’re all on the same page. The same can be said of your advisory board; they must all know have the same idea as to what they’re supposed to accomplish and how they’re going to do that. This includes term limits, nondisclosure agreements, and even future meetings.
2. Figure Out What You Need
Everything in your start-up must have a purpose. Every employee you hire must have a job to fulfill, and similarly, the members of your advisory board must have roles to accomplish. The best way to decide to figure out who should be on the board is to figure out what your weaknesses are. Advisers should not only help you stay focused but should fill in for any of your shortcomings, from access to interpersonal networks in a specific industry to being an expert in a vital field.
Due to this, it’s imperative that you can trust everyone on the board; if you doubt their loyalties or skills, don’t put them on the board. You’re coming to them for advice and help, and if you can’t trust the people you’ve specifically hired to help you, who can you trust?
3. Meet Regularly
The great thing about your advisory board is that its members don’t necessarily have to be near you. They could be around the globe and you could meet up with them over the Internet. What’s important is you meet regularly and keep them updated on the start-up’s progress. The more information they have, the better informed their advice will be.
That being said, it’s best to hold a yearly or even monthly conference, when everyone meets in person. While good work can be done over Skype, there’s nothing like being face to face, with the fruits of their work to inspire them to work even harder. Cover for their travel and lodging costs, and consider it a business expense.
4. Stick to Who You Need
Like most parts of your start-up, your advisory board will be small. Unlike the rest of your start-up, it’s going to stay that way. You’re looking to build a team of three to five members, each of whom can tell you what you need to know rather than what you want to hear. That means hiring people who don’t have a vested interest in your success and thus have no reason to lie. Family members, your lawyer, or any of your employees – these are the kinds of people you can’t have in your advisory board.
Keep in mind that there is a point when too many cooks will spoil the broth. Your advisory board isn’t meant to make decisions for you. Their purpose is to help guide you and fill in for any knowledge, network, or skill gaps. All the decisions and all responsibility still lie in your hands, so keep the team small and focused.
5. Interview Potential Members
The people on your advisory team can have a direct effect on your success as an entrepreneur. If they give you bad advice or do not have the same goals as you, you won’t find out until you’ve acted on it and found yourself in a bind. Interview potential members first, even if they’re thoroughly vetted by someone you trust. Your friend’s trust would be is fine if he were hiring for his advisory board; this is your board, so members must meet your standards and needs.
Trust advisers can improve you as an entrepreneur in ways no other member of your staff can. They can shore up your weaknesses and give you a different perspective on how your business is going. Keep in mind that this is a two-way street — you can also serve as an adviser for another entrepreneur. This way, you can help others in the same valuable way you’ve been helped.
Carole Hambleton-Moser strategically built and managed Credit Suisse in Cape Town for almost ten years. Having left the corporate world now, she has merged her enthusiasm for business with her love of philanthropy and now spends time giving back to the community around her.