April 22, 2017
Attend a meeting or two before joining any peer advisory group.
By Maureen McCabe
Like you, many business owners wear multiple hats and are experts only in their professional discipline — or at least they think they are (I do)! Who do you rely upon for advice and support in decision-making from financial matters, marketing, sales, HR to business operations? Perhaps a paid professional, mentor or coach; a business partner, spouse or — yikes — no one at all.
Learn how you can have access to a group of knowledgeable, experienced professionals in a variety of disciplines — without breaking the bank! A peer advisory board is just that and more. To paraphrase AMEX, membership in a peer membership has its advantage.
Advisory Boards: An Untapped Resource for Businesses
The report is based on Canadian research by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) which is lengthy to read, here’s the bottom line:
Only 6% of Canadian small and medium enterprises (SME) have access to an advisory board and those who participated had stronger financial results. Makes sense.
The following are the top reasons why a business joined or established their own Peer Advisory Board:
- Complementary expertise (21% of respondents)
- Advice and support in decision-making (20%)
- View that it is a sensible business decision (17%)
- Help with growing their business (13%)
Peer Advisory Board: Not Just Another Networking Group
A peer advisory board is not a networking group where your primary objective is to make connections to sell your products and services to fellow members.
It’s a group of professionals who meet regularly to share, learn and collaborate on how to handle business challenges to grow their business. What’s unique is that they want you to succeed and help you achieve your business objectives. You can obtain advice on how to increase sales, business operational efficiency or just bounce a few ideas around for feedback.
Although networking can be a side benefit, it is not the primary objective of the advisory board. Consider the following points when exploring your options to join a board.
1. Membership – Who’s on the Board?
Firstly, understand the criteria to join, in terms of both the cost and time commitment.
Look at the current membership; for example, what types of businesses, industries and professions are represented? What are the members’ experiences?
TIP: Look at the members’ LinkedIn profiles and websites. Don’t forget to Google their name and business name as it’s a quick way to gain additional insight.
- Is the board membership cross-industry (any type of company or profession) or industry-specific, such as accounting? Most boards only allow membership in one discipline or type of business. Examples include a lawyer, web development company or wellness centre.
- If overlapping professions are allowed, ensure you understand the criteria to avoid potential issues. For example, if you are an accountant who specializes in audit and there is already another accountant who provides bookkeeping and income tax-filing services, are you eligible to join?
- If you’re concerned about letting your trade secrets out of the bag, so to speak, join a board that allows only one of each discipline.
2. Investment – Time and Money
Most boards meet monthly. The duration of each meeting is typically two-and-a-half to three hours, which ensures sufficient time to cover the agenda. This will ensure members can provide an update or challenge for the group’s input, along with a short educational presentation, which is typically part of each meeting.
- Value of time and money. When you make an investment, you expect a return. If there were no fees, would you make a commitment to attend monthly meetings?
- A question to ponder: would top professionals like yourself be committed to the board if it were a drop-in-when-you-feel-like-attending type meeting? You be the judge.
- Memberships can be as low as $1,000 annually. As a board member, you are typically expected to attend all meetings.
TIP: Ask if there is a discount if you prepay the yearly membership
3. Facilitator – Experienced Professional
The personality and style of the chair or facilitator of the board enables a collaborative environment to conduct a successful business meeting. The key to a successful meeting includes their help to spearhead the discussion and keep the agenda on track, in addition to your participation. Their experience as successful business owners provides them with invaluable insight.
Peer Advisors – Mastermind Effect
Even if you have staff or a partner, as a business owner you can sometimes feel alone. That’s where the mastermind value of such boards is fantastic. Imagine, all of the members are focused on supporting you!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You can obtain their input before you embark on a new plan or just need some advice on how to resolve a customer- or employee-related problem.
- A trusted peer advisory group enables you to seek input from those who have faced similar problems. Learn how others managed a similar situation (or with 20-20 hindsight how it should have been handled). Apply their lessons learned to your situation.
- Perhaps other members who have never experienced such a challenge can provide input by taking a 10,000-foot look at it from your customers’ perspective.
The Bottom Line. Joining the right peer advisory group can be phenomenal to you both as an individual and a business owner. It is important to remember that the value of a board comes when there is honesty, confidentiality and the willingness to participate — not to mention attending the meetings!
For more small business tips, check out these blog posts:
Like what you've read? Please share this article, here: