How to Create Advisory Committee for Your Business

“Advice is seldom welcome. Those who need it most like it least.” Samuel Johnson

If you are facing a problem, having a tough time making a decision, fearful of the future or having difficulty coping with success, you may need some impartial professional advice. It is time to form a board of seasoned advisors-people who understand your business problems.

Are you a person who shuns advice when things are going great? Too many do. Do you think that if your business is booming you don’t have the time to listen to those who may not always agree with you? You may be wrong.

If things are not going so well, you are afraid of the future, and cannot shake that feeling of impending doom, you may welcome a helping hand. When we are insecure big brother is comforting.

Whether you are optimistic, or pessimistic about your business’s fortunes, independent advice can be profitable – if from qualified sources. It will help get you out of trouble, keep you from blowing it, and keep you on course.

Sure, you have a board of directors, but in the case of most small businesses, your board is your attorney, your accountant, and members of your family. While their suggestions and advice may be helpful with many issues, most of your problems are with managing your business. You need advice from those who have tasted battle – other entrepreneurs who have struggled with meeting the payroll, held creditors at bay or inked a sales contract.

You may have discovered that as your business grows, your risk increases and decisions are more difficult. You need a sounding board that is not emotionally tied to the hoped for outcome – including wishful thinking – as you are. A group that can be “all business” about a judgment call. Your family can’t. Your attorney and accountant may have a narrow view of the situation. Experienced and successful business people know how to manage a business and keep it from getting into trouble.

As you start looking for members who may fit the bill, you may find that those who can be the most helpful are reluctant because of any possible legal liability. If you have been following the “Enron” debacle, you know those directors may face a legal bill or two. Even with liability insurance, who needs those problems?

Here is an alternative – if you can listen without letting your ego get in the way – create an advisory committee. Not a rubber-stamp social gathering, but a committee of qualified “firing line” individuals. Business professionals who have made the tough decisions, successful entrepreneurs who have made the usual bundle of mistakes – straight shooters who will pull no punches and not just say what you want to hear.

Create a committee of three to five – no more – seasoned non-competitive entrepreneurs. Look for advisors who have the talent you may lack. A sales pro, a guy or gal who knows how to manage money, an advertising genius. Get my point?

Don’t insult your members with money. If they are successful, they don’t need your stipend. Remember, they are there to help you, not work for you. You may find breakfast or early evening meetings the most convenient. Try to meet at least once a month. Less frequent will not be productive.

To keep your committee, you must listen to them. Get a consensus on the issues you are dealing with. Think of it this way: you have created a pseudo boss – when we are held accountable we accomplish more. When you meet, hold nothing back – good or bad news. Don’t make any major moves without consulting your members. There is nothing like objectivity to cool down a foolish dream. After all, your future success should be more important than your ego.

When you meet, have financial statements ready, and be prepared to discuss them. Your income statement and balance sheet will tell your committee how successful or unsuccessful you are. If you are having trouble, let your members know so they can help you. Don’t assume minor problems are not important – they can grow like a cancer. If everything is always okay, your members will get bored and lose interest.

If anyone is willing to serve, let him or her participate. It must be worthwhile. Their participation is the reward they will be looking for. Help is there; just ask for it.

If your business is local, join a local business service organization, such as the Lions Club. You will find many potential members. Also check with you local Chamber of Commerce.

Few things worthwhile are free. There is a price. The cost to you to surround yourself with such talent is your willingness to serve when asked. You will find it a rewarding and educational experience.

Article – Copyright 2002 Dr. Paul E. Adams. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.