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An Advisory Board - Sometimes, All Dressed Up with No Place to Go!

Much has been written about the need and the benefit of advisory boards or boards of directors for entrepreneurs.  However, forming a board and using a board are two entirely different things. I'm a member of multiple boards, both advisory and boards of directors.  But I'm an ex-board member of many more companies than I am a current board member.  And why is that?

With a few, we have periodic, scheduled meetings, agendas ahead of time, and ad hoc calls, as necessary, between meetings.  With these, the board plays an acknowledged, valued role and we continue to look for ways to contribute to the company's success. We value the relationship because the small business owner and the company values our contribution by using us.

Unfortunately, with the majority of boards, meetings are as infrequent as annually. Agendas, may or may not be sent ahead of time and there is little or no communication either before or after.  And what happens with most of these, is we advisors, ultimately, resign (none of us like to waste time) or worse, just "drift away."

Now, what is difference between these two groups?

You might think that those that are less than stellar, maybe failed to set out firm objectives for the board or put a solid plan in place to leverage its talent.  And you would be wrong.  In, virtually, all cases (both the ones where the board continues to play an important role as well as those where it did not), the board started out with great expectations and a pretty good plan. Business intervened. Why?

Often, the entrepreneur is so preoccupied with the day-to-day problems of the business, that there is no time to fix them, or ask for help that is right in front of them (I know this sounds crazy, but I've touched on this subject multiple times before). In many instances, the board was just another "check off" of things you're supposed to do when you start a small business.  It never really became a part of the fabric of the business.  They were never truly committed to USING the board (way different than FORMING the board).

And notice, I never mentioned compensation in any of the discussion. It plays a role at the outset, but at the end of the day, the value is really in the contribution the advisor can give back (seems like a "win-win" just waiting to happen for the entrepreneur).

So, your take-away for today is the following:

You not only have to FORM a board (advisory or a board of directors), but you have to be committed to USING that board to help guide the business both, short- and long-term.  Your advisors want to provide value.  Let them! Otherwise, you're wasting a lot of time (yours and your advisors) and money, just going through the motions.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

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