Often entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. It is likely many of the people you find yourself surrounded by on a daily basis do not fully understand exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it or how much you have invested in making it happen. All of this makes it critical that you build a support network you can turn to and lean on. While almost every small business has a formal board of advisors in place, establishing a personal advisory board can prove invaluable to entrepreneurs on both a professional and personal level.
Why develop a personal advisory board?
From trusted advisor to tireless cheerleader, people connector to sounding board, a personal advisory team plays many roles. As an entrepreneur, there will be moments when you need a gut check, while at other times you will find yourself stuck and in need of good counsel. Having a trusted team of advisors you can turn to can make the difference between spinning your wheels and making decisions that allow you -- and your business -- to grow and thrive.
Who should be part of your personal advisory board?
While you may be initially inclined to reach out to mentors in your industry and immediate circle, it’s smart to build a personal advisory board that includes a range of people with varying perspectives.
The best way to start building a personal board is to take inventory of your own strengths and weaknesses. Strive to surround yourself with advisors who fill those gaps. Just because someone may not have knowledge of your specific industry doesn’t mean you should rule her out. The general knowledge and experience she can bring to the table may be the broader perspective you need to see things more clearly.
Stuck on how to find the right people? Many trade associations, like the National Association of Women Business Owners, for which I am the Chair, offer mentoring programs that provide a pool of people from which to identify potential advisors.
What should you look for in a personal advisory board?
It can be difficult for entrepreneurs to share advice with one another since the obstacles and opportunities small businesses and startups face tend to vary so vastly from one company to another. This also makes it a challenge for someone in an advisory role to use his outside perspective to tell you exactly what you should or should not do. With this in mind, it is important to seek out advisors who are willing to share their experiences, rather than handing down mandates or doling out advice that may or may not be relevant to your situation. By absorbing their experiences, you can draw out relevant lessons and apply them to your situation. This puts you in an educated, empowered position to develop the solutions that work best for you, building your capacity as a leader and a strong businessperson.
Behind every great company you will find an even greater entrepreneur. Dig a little deeper, and you will discover that behind every successful entrepreneur is a smart, savvy, supportive team of mentors and advisors. Step back and evaluate those you look up to in your personal and professional lives. Who sharpens you? Who inspires you? Who can you count on to be direct and honest? Who shines where you take a step back? Who do you trust? Turn to those people. You -- and your business -- will be better for it.