Advisory Boards are not new, but they are seldom used by early stage or established businesses vehicle for learning and support or business growth. This is hardly surprising. Businesses are started by men and women who want to make their own decisions or do it their way. They have that combination of steely persistence (bloody-minded) and cliff jumping appetite (recklessness) that bedevils those of sound mind.
But the public myth and reality are poles apart. Whilst the public sees he entrepreneur as an individual, a lone ‘genius’, success is a product of entrepreneurship not the entrepreneur, the business not the individual. The true genius sees the business as a separate identify rather than an extension of his or her ego. This marks an entrepreneur as investor friendly, as someone prepared to listen to and reflect on opposing ideas, and subject his or her own views to constructive debate.
“One voice has a diminishing value; it is not the answer that is needed, its the debate” (Advisory Board Centre, State of the Market, Annual Report, 2019)
The true genius uses an informal or formal ‘board of advisers to access
knowledge, insight, contacts, experience, or quality judgement. Formal Advisory Boards are preferred by more experienced entrepreneurs who realise that informal one on one ‘free’ discussions with advisers just accentuates the lone voice because it forecloses debate.
Advisory Boards typically include an independent Chair, 2-3 external advisers, and two business representatives all with complementary skills the business needs to access. An effective Board process debates business challenges, and helps the business and entrepreneur navigate change. It sets the foundations for better insight and decision-making through informed and structured discussion.
Research shows that businesses, even start-ups, with effective Advisory Boards grow faster. And that taking the time to establish Advisory Boards with the right mix of skill sets and business connections repays itself.
When is the right time to start an Advisory Board, or to formalise an existing network of advisers? It is never too early.