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Advisory Boards

Definition: A group of individuals who've been selected to help advise a business owner regarding any number of business issues, including marketing, sales, financing, expansion and so on; a body that advises the board of directors and management of a corporation but does not have authority to vote on corporate matters

An advisory board is an informal group of local business professionals who can help you run your business better. And because advisory boards are unofficial (i.e., it's not the same as a corporate board of directors), you have a great deal of latitude in how you set it up. Advisory boards can be structured both to help with the direct operation of your company and to keep you informed on various business, legal and financial trends that may affect you and your business

Generally, you'll want a legal advisor, an accountant, a marketing expert, a human resources expert and perhaps a financial advisor. You may also want successful entrepreneurs from other industries who understand the basics of business and will view your operation with a fresh eye. If you don't personally know people with those areas of expertise, don't be afraid to ask the most successful people you can find. At best, you'll partake of the knowledge your community's successful business leaders have. At worst, they'll be flattered and say no.

When setting up the board, be clear about what you're trying to do. Let your prospective advisors know what your business goals are and that you don't expect them to take on an active management role or assume any liability for your company or for the advice they offer.

Advisory board members are rarely compensated with more than an occasional meal. Keep in mind that, instead, your advisory board members will likely benefit in a variety of tangible and intangible ways. Being on your board will expose them to ideas and perspectives they may have otherwise missed. It will also expand their own networks, which can offer a wide range of advantages.

When holding actual meetings, you can go one of two ways: You can either bring everyone together every month or two, or you can meet with different advisors separately in a way that makes sense to the issue at hand. It really depends on your business's needs, what you're comfortable with and the dynamic you wish to develop between your advisors.

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