Business owners of small to medium sized companies can leverage advisory boards to support business growth through effective decision making. Advisory boards may have a broad focus and provide feedback on general business decisions. They also may be more ad hoc, developed for key business initiatives such as development of a new product or market. Advisory board members provide their subject matter expertise without impinging on the ultimate decisions of the business owner or board of directors.
One specific business initiative for which advisory boards are useful is succession planning. During the RAEDC’s Succession Planning Seminar on June 7, Lisë Stewart of the Galliard Institute included advisory boards in her recommendations for family businesses. She advises businesses to be bold in asking succession planning experts or industry leaders who may be willing to provide their time supporting the business.
The seminar’s panel discussion reinforced the value of advisory boards. Jack Ward, partner at Reno & Zahm, emphasized that business owners find individuals that they trust as his most important piece of advice.
There is no one-size-fits-all advisory board model. Lisë Stewart recommends that business owners ask for short periods of commitment, a one year period for example, to reduce barriers for participation. Commitment periods can be renewed for members who remain interested and beneficial, while providing flexibility to modify participation with other individuals as needed. Some business owners may not have the networks to identify sufficient perspectives from individuals whom they trust. In these cases, they may organize a floating advisory panel that does not meet formally and where members’ commitment only extends to the next conversation. This more informal structure can provide the advisory benefit while the business owner develops trusted contacts.
Advisory boards can positively impact small and medium size businesses from a start-up company to a third generation family owned business. Regardless of business sector or advisory board structure, they help navigate common business planning decisions with expert insight and support.
This article by Karl Franzen also appeared in The Voice.