22 May Getting to Know You(r customers)
We often hear from business owners that it is difficult to find a “sounding board” for key decisions they are facing. Unless they have a Board of Directors or investors, business owners tend to find themselves alone when making strategic decisions and implementing them. Sometimes they are lucky and have another executive in their company to help bounce ideas and play devil’s advocate, but too often they don’t.
CEO groups have gained traction, providing a forum where business owners can share and compare solutions for challenges they face. Another option is to develop a personal advisory board. Like a Board of Directors that helps advise the growth of your company, a Board of confidantes can help you navigate the challenges you face as CEO or owner.
Here are 5 tips to building your personal advisory board:
- Pick a manageable number. Think about your time, commitments and goals and pick a number of advisors that you can realistically manage. If you ask someone to make time for you, you will want to make sure you can follow through on it. Business leaders may meet with their advisors 3-4 times per year, so more than 3-5 people on a Board is a challenge.
- Ask people you know don’t know well. Your friends may offer great advice, but they are still your friends and are often encouraged to temper their advice through that lens. Think about gaps you have in your knowledge or professional development, and reach out to people who can help you bridge them. Convey to them what it is that they offer and why that is of value to you personally and professionally.
- Find people who will push back. Take your advisor-to-be to lunch and try to find out through conversation if they will push back on your ideas or goals. Too often, business owners find that their management teams are reluctant to push back on their ideas. Find someone who will – you need someone to make you explain why and how you will reach your goals.
- Give them a schedule and talking points. Set a calendar with your advisors in advance with dates to meet, and tell them which issues you would like them to weigh in on throughout the year.
5. Don’t be afraid to make the ask. Psychology tells us that the best way to make someone like you and support your work is to ask a favor of them. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to ask. And, also, don’t be afraid of “no.” Remember: people may say “no” for many reasons – time, overstretched, not the right fit, etc.