6 Ways To Build An Advisory Team For Your Small Business

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Before starting our own businesses, many of us had corporate jobs. One of the big differences between being part of someone else’s company and heading a small one is the lack of feedback. It’s likely that as an employee you worked with people you could bounce ideas off of. As a small business owner, you’re lucky if you have one or two people you can share ideas with.

Isolation is a problem for many entrepreneurs—even those with employees. Sure, you can brainstorm with employees for ideas on smaller issues, but when it comes to bigger concerns—like the future direction of your business—you can’t share what you’re thinking with your staff.

So where can you turn for advice and feedback? Why not form a board of advisors? Here are some ideas for creating your own set of advisors.

1. Talk to other business owners

Sometimes all you need is someone to vent to or share your fears, frustrations and challenges with. If that’s the case, try getting together with other business owners you know for coffee or lunch. If you’re feeling isolated, just talking to one person can help—but even better, get a small group together. To keep it from becoming a complaint session, each person should talk about a current challenge they’re facing, while the rest of you help brainstorm solutions. These groups work best when you include complementary, but not competitive, businesses—often, you’ll come up with new ways you can work together to build your businesses.

2. Find a mentor

If you’re looking for more of a one-on-one relationship, consider mentorships. A mentor can be anyone you feel you can learn from and who has time to spend with you on a regular basis helping you improve your business. Think about what you need help with and who might make a good mentor. Tap into your networks, both online and offline, for suggestions. Once you find a mentor, make it a point to meet regularly, whether it’s a short phone call once a week or a longer meeting each month. Always respect your mentor’s time and give serious consideration to his or her advice. You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but you do need to take them seriously.

3. Tap into free resources

Two of the best places I’ve found for business owners to get advice and feedback are SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). SCORE Mentors can advise you on all aspects of business, and you can even get answers from Mentors 24/7 online at theSCORE website.SBDCs, located in many communities nationwide, have experts on staff ranging from consultants to business owners who can advise you for free. Find the nearest one at theSBA website.

4. Hire a coach

A business coach is kind of like a mentor that you pay for. If you’re one of those people who tends to flake out on informal relationships like mentorships, actually hiring—and paying—a coach may work better for you.The Worldwide Association of Business Coachesis a good place to start, or ask other business owners to recommend coaches they’ve used.

5. Create an advisory board

A more formal arrangement than just meeting with other business owners, an advisory board is typically four to eight people who have business skills and experience you lack, or in a different industry than yours.

6. Hire a consultant

If you need more than just advice or someone to bounce ideas off of, it may be worth it to hire a consultant who can develop a plan for your business growth or help you get over current hurdles. Look for someone who has experience in your industry and working with small business owners. Get recommendations from colleagues, your network and professional advisers, like your banker and accountant. And be sure you clearly understand all terms and costs of the consulting agreement.

Don’t put this off, thinking it’s worth the effort to find the right advisor. Having additional sources of ideas and input will make a huge difference to your mental health—and your business.

Courtesy: Open Forum