Do You Need a Board of Advisors?

Managing Talent

A small coalition of business consultants may lend perspective and guidance to your business

Published on: July 2, 2013

If you are business owner, you are constantly looking for ideas, information, perspective, best practices and more. If you are not looking for those items I have concerns about the success and longevity of your operation. I have been asked before if a Board of Directors is appropriate for a farm. For most farms I feel a Board of Advisors may be the better fit for what they are trying to accomplish.

Before you can even start the process of building an advisement team you need to consider what you want to accomplish. What would be the very purpose of the team? Are they a sounding board for new ideas? Once you know your end goal you can start to define what types of backgrounds and experience would best fit.

Your dream team should be comprised of trusted, high-performing individuals that have expertise and skills that you lack. They should complement your skills.  Team members should be both from within and out of your industry and come with diversity of skills and experience. A must requirement for advisors is that they are committed to speaking openly and contributing. It's always a plus if they have a vested interest in seeing your business succeed. You do not want a board of "yes" people.

If I was building a board today, I already know of one senior person in the health insurance industry and one in the manufacturing industry I would place on my team tomorrow. I would then add a marketing guru and networking expert to the list.

The board not only gives you outside perspective, but it also holds you as the business owner/leader accountable for taking action on the strategies determined. Remember, their sole purpose is to advise, not carry out the plan.  It's the leader/owner who needs to see the plan through and provide updates, roadblocks, etc. to the team so they can continue to advise and add value.

Before approaching advisors know exactly the level of commitment you will be asking of them and what you are expecting as far as participation. Be specific on how often the team would meet and how they would be communicating.

You will also want to be up front with compensation. Pay for a board of advisors can range from paying their travels and meals with no comp to a per-meeting payment of several hundred to several thousand dollars. If you can't offer a wage compensation consider what else you may bring to the table that would make it worth their time.