How to Create Your Own Advisory Board

Ilise Benun on your online marketing planAt last year’s CFC (2011 in Chicago), favorite speaker, Luke Mysse, gave an inspiring opening session in which he elaborated on the idea of solopreneurs creating their own advisory board to help grow the business.

This year in Boston, he brought up that idea again as part of his “Options for Growth” opening session, but it was picked up in the Q&A by Julia Reich of Julia Reich Design and became one of the main subjects being tweeted and discussed over the entire conference. So we know it’s a good idea (and may even have an entire workshop/session on it at next year’s CFC, June 22-24 in San Francisco — save the date!).

Julia has continued to pursue the idea in her attempt to create her own advisory board and wrote about it on her blog. Here’s an excerpt from it, including how to lead the first meeting.

Luke Mysse, in his talk “Options for Growth”at the Creative Freelancers Conference last month in Boston stated, “You shouldn’t walk alone” – get an advisory board to keep you on track with goals & finances.

For the first meeting:

  • Start with “thanks”
  • Talk about why an advisory board, and my biggest challenges
  • Let them introduce themselves
  • Set expectations and communication/feedback guidelines
  • End by saying “thanks” again

Read the rest here. And comment here and/or on Julia’s blog if you’re working with this idea too.


5 thoughts on “How to Create Your Own Advisory Board

  1. Marcia Hoeck

    I had an advisory board for my business for many years, and it was one of the most useful things I ever did to grow my business. It was at my accountant’s urging, so he was the first person I asked to be on it. From there I invited other advisors that I met with occasionally anyway, and this way I could meet with them all together, on a consistent basis: my attorney, my insurance guy, my financial planner, and a former client, a marketing vp.

    I paid them each an honorarium of $50, and treated them to lunch. We’d get a private room at a restaurant or hotel, and we’d plan on 2 hours. Like Luke did, I met with my advisors quarterly. When you’re your own boss and have no accountability, it’s really easy to get off course — and having a board look at your financials and plans and ask serious questions really keeps you accountable. I worked really hard for my presentations for these meetings, and they were tough on me.

    My board was instrumental in several big steps in my business that I may not have made on my own, and they wouldn’t let me weasel out of things. Eventually, though, I disbanded them. As my business grew, I outgrew the level at which they could help me, and I turned to different mentors and coaches instead. I think it’s important to always keep your advisors fresh, and at a level that stretches you. I suppose I could have just rotated the people in the board, but I was ready for a different model, after having had the board for many years. I do recommend it though, as an excellent growth strategy.

  2. julia reich

    Any tips from readers on who to ask, and how? I don’t have a financial planner, an insurance guy, or a lawyer, and my accountant seems way too busy – and not that invested in me or my business.

    One colleague I talked to about this idea thinks it would be better if it was a “mastermind” group, where everyone is in a different industry and you are all taking turns helping each other, instead of everyone assembled just to help you.

    What do you think of this idea?

    1. Marcia Hoeck

      Hi Julia,
      Masterminds are great too — for different things:

      I’ve done both for years — and I think both are really valuable for business owners. Each has its benefits and limitations. Masterminding is usually with your peers, so there’s a limit to the guidance they can give you, unless it’s a paid mastermind with a facilitator. But the collaboration, support, and idea sharing is usually excellent. A lot of growth can happen in a mastermind. An advisory board is usually with experts in different areas, with more experience than you, so they can advise you.

      Do you have any personal or business insurance? Have you done any personal financial planning or investing? Do you have any friends who are attorneys, accountants, or have the type of experience that would be good on your board, even if you’ve never hired them? You can think about asking them. And, it’s not a bad idea to get to know these types of advisors, no matter what size your business is. You can still ask people with this kind of experience to be on your board even if you’ve not worked with them — what you’re looking for is people with the skill sets you don’t have, so you can really benefit from their points of view.

      I started my first mastermind group by asking people I met at the HOW Cabo San Lucas MYOB in 2003, and we still meet quarterly (those are the people in the photo in the blog post at the above link). I looked for people who were close enough geographically to be able to get together without flying (5 hr. drive max) and far enough away that we didn’t know anything about each other and weren’t competing locally. Not everyone I asked wanted to do it, but 5 of them did. Two dropped out and we added a new person along the way, and they’ve become some of my best friends. We meet in person.

      I’ve also been in mastermind groups where we meet via phone, and everyone is in a different industry. This works too, if members are committed.

      I’m sure you’ll benefit from which ever direction you choose — you can’t really make a mistake. Just dive in and see what works. (There’s lots of info online about starting mastermind groups.) Kudos to you for starting down this path!