Forming an Advisory Board: Finding the Dream Team Experts to Sit at Your Table
Why did I form an advisory board for my company? It’s not a complicated reason – I wanted help from a particular group of experts, my dream team, and couldn’t afford to pay them!
My business partner and I had some of the same skills and other skills were complimentary. We knew we were not experts in certain aspects of our business.
Yes, we belonged to several peer advisory groups; however, they only met once per month or quarter, and we didn’t always have the opportunity to present our issues since others had to get a turn. Frankly, some issues cannot wait for a month!
Where could we find someone to listen to our (hairbrained?) strategies or guide us on how to execute them? We decided to allow a select group of relevant advisors to sit at our business table and give input! This is one team we wanted to build ourselves.
I’m sharing the same techniques that I used to form and manage my board to scale and sell my multi-million-dollar business to a private equity company.
Create a profile
To create a board, you must first create a profile of the people you want on your board.
Do prospective board members align with your vision, your mission, and your values?
- Brainstorm words that depict the qualities in a board member that you want? Here are a few examples:
- Passion – you want them to have a deep interest in your organization
- Honest – they have a reputation for being transparent and above board
- Supportive – even if they disagree with you, they can come to a consensus
- Dedicated – they’re in it for as long as you need them
- Vision – the ability to see the big picture, your big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG)
- Leadership – the courage to set direction to achieve the organization’s mission2. Pick out some people you know with the qualities you identified. You’ve come across people in the corporate world, entrepreneurs, networking meetings, or friends who you admire. Make a list.
3. Invite those people to lunch to discuss how they can help you with your business.
These three tips should allow you to start laying the foundation for your advisory board. If someone says “no” they cannot be on your board, revisit them again in the future to see if their situation has changed.
Create a package for your candidates
If you invite someone to be on your advisory board, you should telepathically answer their questions before they ask them. That’s because you put yourself in their shoes:
1. Create an FAQ sheet that gives the questions and answers. This page could be on your website and you include the link in your literature.
2. Include a friendly cover letter letting them know the benefits of being on your board (you should know your board’s benefits!). If there are other people on your board, include their names as the prospect might know them.
3. Create a package for them. Market to them just as you would to a potential client. Include literature about your business and any other critical information that they will need.
4. Meeting Frequency. Decide if you want to meet monthly, quarterly, or annually. The prospects will need to know how much time they will need to give you.
Additionally, if you will be in touch with them during off-meeting times, let them know how often. Board candidates want to feel welcomed. They want to know that you are anticipating their wants and fulfilling their needs and that you are cognizant of their time.
Prepare for board meetings
There is a lot of backend work that is not being done during the meeting. Keep the lines of communication open. Happy board, happy owner!
1. Send them a copy of the presentation at least one week before the meeting. This way, they will get a chance to review it and have actionable feedback to discuss instead of becoming familiar with the information during the session.
2. Create and distribute an agenda. Have discussion items and questions ready for the board. They are giving you their time, which is one of their most valuable gifts – make good use of it.
3. Put a hold on their calendars by sending them an invite for all the meetings. It gives you, and them, the opportunity to know if someone will be unavailable for the meeting.
Once you form your advisory board, treat your members well. These board members like to get to know your employees, so invite them to company events.
If you are treating your employees to a play, ask them too. Board members love to be treated nicely – it’s only fair in return for their advice and time. Just because these experts are on your board, remember that you are the leader. They are there to help you. If you feel that your company’s vision, mission, and values no longer align with a particular member, feel free to relieve them of their duties.
Here’s to low-stress, fun, engaging sessions with your advisory board.