You hear it called by many names: a mastermind group, success team, think tank, advisory board, etc. But it's got one purpose, and that is to help you get your business to where you want it to be. Whether you're just starting out, struggling to make it, or looking to take your business to the next level, the right group of advisors can help you achieve your goals. It takes time to build the right group, but it will be well worth the time and effort in the end.
Who Should be on Your Team?
I refer to this group as a "Dream Team" to emphasize the importance of getting the right people together. Your team will typically be made up of as few as three and as many as ten professionals from various backgrounds. Ideally, you want to find experienced business people with a range of strengths that compliment one another. For example, if you're an ideas person but not great at creating processes, it's good to have an operations-focused team member to advise you on the area where you need help.
Each member of your team doesn't have to have a different area of expertise though. For example, it's a good idea to have more than one creative thinker, or idea person, on your team, and having multiple marketing brains in the room can also be helpful. On the other hand, having more than one accounting pro to advise you probably isn't necessary, and might just be confusing.
Where will You Find Them?
Once you've decided the kinds of expertise you'd like to have on your team, where do you find these people? Will other business people really be interested in helping with your business — for free? The short answer is, yes. Not everyone will be up for this, but there are plenty of business owners, professionals, and retired professionals who love to help other businesses however they can.
Not only does it feel good to help someone, but being able to list several businesses for which you are an advisor adds credibility and positive reputation to your name. Additionally, many people who agree to be part of your team will do so because they are "paying it forward." In other words, someone helped them when they needed it, and helping you is a way of giving back.
So, where are these people? Start by networking, both online (LinkedIn is great for this) and at local business events. Get to know people and figure out who would make a good dream team member. Then, just ask. You might be surprised how many people are not only willing but anxious to be part of your team. In return, you may be asked to sit on other advisory boards, which is good for you, for all the reasons stated above.
What Should You do at Meetings?
You've found a group of pros willing to advise you as part of your dream team advisory board. Now what? There are some important points to keep in mind when holding meetings with your team. First, these are busy people. Have an agenda that will fit within the allotted time slot, and stick to it. Respect everyone's time, and they'll come back — don't and they won't.
Next, make sure you're clear on what you need help with and how you'll go about brainstorming ideas to solve issues or plan for the future. Don't think that just because you've got a group of smart people in the room the meeting will run itself. They are there to help you, so ask for the help you need and be clear about how you'd like that help.
Perhaps most importantly, show your appreciation for their time and expertise. They're not doing it to get praise from you, but it's common courtesy to thank them and reciprocate however you can. One small way to show your appreciation is to have water, coffee, soda, and snacks at the meetings. But also take the time to thank each member individually and let them know how much their help means to you.
Why go to All This Trouble?
As I stated before, putting together a dream team to advise your company takes time and effort. Not only do you need to find the right people, but you're likely to have challenges with some people not showing up as they committed, and some personalities may clash, which can present a challenge as well. So is it really worth it?
Heck yeah, it is. Even though you might run into some challenges, and it might take you a while to get the perfect group to commit, think about what that could mean for your business when you pull them together. Without paying for high priced consultants, you will have a group of advisors who are experts in their respective fields guiding your company. The value in that can be huge!
When Should You get Started?
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.