As I set out on my bicycle in the pre-dawn darkness, following the tail beacons of other riders beginning the annual Three Oaks Michigan Apple Cider Century bike ride early that morning, I realized that it was going to be a cold, windy day. In fact, as the ride wore on, it was apparent that the wind seemed to be blowing hard from every direction. I was thankful for some extra help that I had to address this situation: a new breathable windbreaker in highly visible fluorescent orange, toe and hand warmers, and that cup of extra strong green tea and lemon that I sipped just before starting out.
When running your business, where do you turn for that extra help? Do you have an IT expert on staff that can manage a Sales CRM system that supports your sales staff, but who is also aware that it needs to keep the institutional knowledge of your customers safe if a sales person leaves to go to a competitor? Do you have an operator who has the bandwidth to utilize that expensive new 3-D printer that will allow you to quickly prototype a job to respond to your client’s unexpected design change?
These vexing problems can often be solved by expert advice. You are very focused on running your business from day to day; you know it well, but who do you turn to when you need to figure out simply which path to take, when one path can lead to lost time, money, and productivity, while the other path can accomplish the goal you were striving for? For example, advice from a former purchasing agent might help you understand how or whether to purchase new computers for your engineering team. Advice from an experienced IP or patent attorney could tell you whether it is worth pursuing legal action when you suspect a competitor is knocking off one of your hottest selling products.
A proven source of advice for large public companies is their board of directors. You may not realize it, but advice of this type is also available to smaller, private companies. Whether a formal, paid board of directors, an informal advisory board, or a peer advisory group, having experienced individuals from different backgrounds that you trust, who listen to your challenges and give you objective feedback can be a great help to your business. It can also be a big help to you psychologically, let’s face it, your job can be pretty lonely at times.
Who comprises these advisory boards? Think of legal, financial, operations, accounting, information technology, human resources, risk, and corporate development, as the functional areas of expertise for your advisors. The need for each can vary in importance depending on the type of business you are in, and the situations that your business is facing. You also may want someone from the company, or if it is a family-owned business, from the family involved. In all cases, you need advisors who will give you unbiased and candid feedback, and who will question you in ways that your employees would not. If you would like a little help in starting down the path of building an advisory board, please call. We have ideas for you that will enhance the value of your business over time, and most importantly, when it is time to sell it.