Posts Tagged ‘advice’

Advisory Boards – 4 Tips For Success

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

As the business owner, who can you turn to for advice?4 tips to help set up Advisory Boards successfully

It can’t be someone who works for you. Your spouse or other family members may not be willing, or able, to help.

It could be a peer – but they may have challenges of their own. And who wants to hire a consultant?

So, what’s left?

There is one resource I haven’t mentioned. It’s commonly linked with start-ups, but I find it can be very useful when companies plateau.

It’s an Advisory Board.

Unlike Boards of Directors, Advisory Boards aren’t for life. You can keep them running for as long as you want – or need.

Here are some tips for setting one up.

1.  Membership. Based on our experience helping set up Advisory Boards, I’d suggest recruiting no more than 5 or 6 members.

Find people who complement your skills and experience. Invite someone who has already grown her or his business to the size you’re aiming for. Consider also asking your accountant; someone (e.g. from an industry association) who knows your markets; a supplier of non-competitive products to your customers; and even your banker.

Make a list, identify the person the others will want to work with and approach him or her first.

2.  Compensation. You may be surprised to find that most people are flattered to be asked to join an Advisory Board.

That doesn’t mean you should expect them to do it for free. But you don’t have to offer excessive compensation either.

Remember they will incur costs to get to meetings and they will be giving up another activity to be there. Recognize that by offering them a couple of hundred dollars and a decent breakfast, lunch or dinner at each meeting.

3.  Set goals and expectations. Meet once a quarter, for no more than 2 or 3 hours. Explain that you may also want to talk to them individually between meetings if an issue arises specific to their expertise.

Publish the agenda and circulate any reading materials the week before the meeting. Appoint someone who is good at keeping meetings on track and on time to run them. Once a year, ask the members what they think of the meetings and make changes based on that input.

Make it clear that you want them to provide valuable advice but that you’ll make the final decisions. They hold no legal or financial responsibility for those decisions.

4.  Build (or strengthen) your relationships with board members. If you’ve chosen well, your members can connect you to people in their networks (including potential customers).

But they can also introduce to, for example, new software or technologies and make you aware of grants or programs that provide funding.

You can read more about Advisory Boards here and here. Ignore the references to start-ups; it’s good advice for everyone!

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy I’m Not Alone…….

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Being Told What To Do Isn’t Good For Business

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

I do not believe that it’s a consultant’s place to tell a client what to do.Business owners must ultimately make their own decisions

I do believe that it’s our responsibility to give the business owners we work with the best possible advice we can.

And when I say give, I don’t mean that we just hand the advice to them by saying “Here’s what I think you should do….” or “Here’s what I would do…”

I believe one of the most effective ways to ‘provide’ advice is by using questions to help owners realize that there are, for example, possibilities they may not have considered; opportunities they may not have seen; and alternatives that may not be obvious.

Then we have to allow the owners to decide for themselves what to do with the ‘advice’.

Those of you who follow my posts know that I hold another belief to be very important. That is that rules are for the guidance of wise people and the blind obedience of fools.

So when, with respect to giving ‘advice’, do I break my own rule?

There are 3 situations which spring to mind.

First, if I see an owner, or his or her management team, about to do something that is likely to end in disaster.

I’ve accumulated almost as many grey hairs as I have experiences. I think it’s called ‘grey haired equity’. Some of mine has come from making brilliant moves but most of it has come from my own, or other people’s, mistakes and hard knocks.

It would be irresponsible to allow someone to repeat a move that is certain not to work.

Second, if a business owner asks directly for my opinion, or what I would do if I were in their shoes.

Even then I always ask “Are you sure you want my input?” before volunteering it. That’s because the owners we work with often already know what has to be done but don’t want to do it. So they’re hoping I’ll tell them to do something else, something that will, for example, not hurt people.

The third and final situation occurs when I lose my concentration and forget my own rule.

That happens most often when we’re facilitating – for example either a strategy development or business planning meeting. Particularly toward the end of the day when we’ve been juggling process, timing, making sure everyone is engaged and that no input is overlooked.

To avoid the third situation we have to be well prepared for every encounter with a client.

We have to think carefully about the objective, format and content of each interaction or activity we do with, or on behalf of, the companies we work with. That takes time.

I believe it’s time well spent because the alternative is that the owners we work with become used to us telling them what to do. That’s a form of dependency.

And we don’t do dependency. But that’s a topic for another post…

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience

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Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

It’s really important to know what you don’t know.

But it’s even more important to be able to admit it to yourself.

When I started my company almost 10 years ago I made a list of everything the consultants I’d hired in my previous life had done which annoyed me.

ProfitPATH’s values statement is to do the opposite of everything that is on that list.

Something that really annoyed me was….

….having a consultant tell me that they could do something when they knew there was someone else out there who could do it better.

It meant that I paid them to learn, or perfect, a new skill or technique. Then they inflicted a sub-standard (compared to the more knowledgeable or experienced third party) performance on my company.

In the best case they wasted time, slowing me down while they got up to speed. Meaning it took me longer to achieve the results for which I was accountable.

In the worst case they didn’t master the topic or process well and that adversely affected our performance.

I felt so strongly about this type of behaviour that it was near the top of my “hate” list.

Not doing it became one of our primary values. One, I know, that has cost us revenue over the years. But I’m comfortable with that – we didn’t get into consulting for the short term and we’re not in it for the short term now.

But what happens when…

….a business owner, a potential client, knows what they don’t know – but won’t admit it to themselves or anyone else?

One of the things I’ve learned, now that we’re the consultants, is that this situation does arise – in companies of all sizes.

In my experience there are 2 possible outcomes.

The first is that the owner will go ahead and make decisions or take the company into areas that they’re not equipped to deal with. And, sooner or later, they will make a mistake.

How wide ranging the impact will be depends on a number of factors.
In the best case it might mean a minor setback. In the worst case it could seriously affect the company’s ability to operate and the livelihood of the employees.

The second possible outcome is that, rather than seek out or listen to advice, the owner will do nothing. It could be argued that this is the better alternative.

However, it’s not, it’s also a mistake. It means avoiding decisions, or putting a halt to initiatives, which could have benefited the company and the employees. And doing it knowing there are people out there who have the skill, knowledge and experience required to be successful.

If the owner continues to take this approach she or he could be the factor that limits the growth of their own company.

The moral of the tale is…..

My Mum used to say that 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

Here we have 2 different parties – consultant and business owners – doing the same thing wrong.

The result, the outcome will be the same. And it won’t be the best one for the company.

That’s just not right.

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