Peer Advisory Boards

Peer Advisory Board Best Practices

For many entrepreneurs, peer advisory boards offer much-needed relief from the isolating nature of small business ownership. Unfortunately, they can also be minefields full of conflicts and challenges that threaten your company's survival.

Peer-to-peer advisory boards can be a phenomenal resource for business owners and business executives.

Peer Advisory Board Best Practices

When it comes to peer advisory boards, a little advance knowledge really does make the difference between success and failure.

By adhering to a few simple guidelines -- a handful of do's and don'ts -- you can set yourself and your business on the path toward a satisfying peer advisory board experience.

DO . . .

  • Pay attention to board composition. An appealing peer advisory experience begins with the composition of the board itself. If the board is comprised of entrepreneurs who are at different stages of their careers or own companies that are dissimilar in size and scope, it will be difficult for board members to relate to one another's challenges. At the same time, you'll need to be able to trust your board members because the peer advisory process necessitates the sharing of confidential and sometimes delicate information about your company.
  • Establish shared objectives. Successful peer advisory boards share a common set of goals and objectives -- but that doesn't mean each board member will be interested in seeking advice about the same kinds of business-related issues. Instead, an effective peer advisory board understands that it exists to meet the needs of everyone in the group rather than benefiting only one or two key players.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. The entrepreneurs who gain the most from peer advisory boards are the ones who invest the time and energy to prepare for board meetings. This means not only preparing to discuss the most pressing issues facing your business, but preparing to offer useful insights that address the concerns of others in the group as well.

DON'T . . .

  • Undervalue your peers' time. One of the more frustrating aspects of peer advisory boards is when members feel as though their time is being wasted on unnecessary details or pointless conversation. To avoid this, make a concentrated effort to keep the conversation focused on the primary issues you are facing and save the fine points of discussion for your staff or for personal conversation after the board meeting.
  • Abdicate decision-making. Peer advisory boards are designed to offer suggestions and advice about your company -- not to assume management or decision-making functions within the business. At the end of the day, you are the expert about your small business. If you disagree with your advisory board's recommendations, do your research and make your own decisions.
  • Alienate key staff. No matter how useful you find your peer advisory board you have to be careful not to alienate key employees. After you discuss new directions with your advisory board, take the time to talk about them with your staff before you move toward implementation.

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