"In giving advice, seek to help, not please, your friend."
--  Solon (638 BC - 559 BC)
The old adage that "it's lonely at the top" is even truer when you are not only at the top, but you are the whole company.  Being a sole practitioner can be daunting and sometimes isolating.  This is particularly the case during a time of business transition when you're coping with new opportunities for growing your business or with problems that threaten your company's future welfare.  These are the times when having a personal advisory board can offer huge benefits, including being a mental health saver.

What exactly is a personal advisory board?  It's a small group of trusted advisors that you bring together to get objective feedback on a specific business issues you're facing or to brainstorm new ideas to move the, business forward.  Your personal advisory board might meet only once, when you have a particularly pressing need for advice.  Or if group members are willing, they might meet on an ad hoc basis whenever you have significant issues on which you need advice. 

The value of personal advisory boards is not limited to sole practitioners.  If you're in a corporation with a dearth of mentors a personal advisory board can be extremely useful in helping you think through key career issues.  Or if you're thinking of leaving the corporate realm for self-employment, an advisory board could help you consider the potential risks and rewards.

Most us have individuals we turn to when things aren't going right or when we're faced with an exciting new opportunity that we aren't sure how to tackle.  These people might be friends, family members, other professionals, or paid advisors such as accountants and lawyers.  But by talking over your business issues with these trusted advisors on an individual basis, you're missing out on the wonderful synergy that occurs in a group setting.

This synergy is one of the biggest benefits of forming a personal advisory board.  When you bring your advisors together in one room, they invariably build on each other's ideas to come up with something much stronger than you would have achieved by just talking to them one-on-one.  With your advisory team, you can take your thinking to a whole new level.  Bringing together people from different fields and with different perspectives will always produce insights that you never would have arrived at on your own.

Here are other benefits of forming a personal advisory board:
**     You're no longer thinking in a vacuum.  With a personal advisory board, you have a group of people who have accepted the responsibility of being a sounding board for you and for giving you feedback.
**     You can get that vote of confidence you need to head off in a scary direction.  Having others, particularly in a group setting, tell you that what you're thinking of doing sounds like the right way to go can be very empowering.
**     Once you've discussed and committed yourself to a plan of action in this setting, you've put yourself on the line in terms of actually following through.  Knowing that this group of supporters is behind you and is expecting you to act can be a very powerful motivator.

You may be asking yourself why someone would take the time to be your advisor?  In most instances, the people you'll choose are already spending time discussing your issues with you.  But by joining your advisory board, they may find someone else in the group who can help them solve one of their own business problems.  Their participation in your group may even help them attract new business from another advisory board member.  Or they may want to refer business to other board members.  Done appropriately, the ultimate result will be a group in which everybody finds something of value.

The informality of a personal advisory board makes the task of recruiting members somewhat easier than for a formal corporate advisory board.  With a formal advisory board, I always recommend against including friends and family members.  However, with a personal advisory board, it's perfectly okay to have people who are very close to you participate, as long as you trust them to be objective about your capabilities and supportive of plans for moving your business forward.

In general, if someone is a person you constantly turn to for advice, he or she could be even more valuable in a group setting.  Many of us tend to segregate who we talk to about what issues and to not give people enough credit for being able to step outside their own disciplines.  You will be surprised how a group setting provides a stimulus that enables people from all arenas to come up with good ideas about your business.  Also realize that the make-up of the group can, and likely should, change over time.  You may want to bring together different people to talk about different issues.  For instance, if you're thinking of entering into a professional partnership, you could add a couple of people who are in partnerships to your group for a one-time meeting.

It is not necessary to include your paid advisors; you can always bring back information to them from the meeting.  But, by all means, if you have a professional advisor who is capable of thinking outside the box of his or her profession, include that person on your personal advisory board.

For the meeting, find a date that works for everyone and put together a short agenda.  You will want to provide a meal for people, but this doesn't need to be expensive or lavish.  The main point of the get-together is to be productive in terms of thinking in new ways about your business.

During the meeting, have someone else take notes, so that you can focus fully on what is being said.  Encourage people to go for the wild "what if's."  Keep in mind that the purpose of the gathering is to stretch your thinking so that you come away from the meeting with great new ideas for moving your business forward.  That "lonely at the top" feeling will fade away as you feel the support of your personal advisors encouraging you to new heights. 

Susan C. Hammond advises CEOs on strategic growth issues, including the establishment of advisory boards; her services include facilitating advisory board meetings.  She can be reached at schammond@tiac.net
The Personal Advisory Board is a perfect way to use the 4 C's of Success we discussed last week.  This week explore what your Personal Advisory Board can bring to you.

1.     Clarity  --  Your Personal Advisory Board can give you clarity on the issues you bring to the table. 

2.     Courage  --  A fitting way to step outside of your comfort zone, share more of you with others and get feedback.

3.     Confidence  --  You can put the right team together that will benefit you the most.  Share the vision of what you want and         make it happen. 

4.     Connection  --  Bringing the Board together provides connection for you and opens up possibilities for them, too

        Tip of the Week
        Tip Archive 2008
        Tip Archive 2007
        Tip Archive 2006
        Tip Archive 2005
        Tip Archive 2004
        Tip Archive 2003
        Tip Archive 2002/2001
February 7, 2003
Contact AndreaE-mail Andrea

© 2000 Andrea Novakowski. All Rights Reserved  | designed by The Complete Website

Join the free Coaching Tip of the Week mailing list.