Why You Should Consider a Peer Advisory Board for Your Company

Aug 25, 2022

IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses. The following blog article has been provided by Kelly Kasper of The Alternative Board (www.TabNorthSeattle.com).

Why You Should Consider a Peer Advisory Board for Your Company

What makes a business owner advisory board valuable?

A traditional business advisory board is a hand-picked group of individuals who come together to help guide a business owner through tough decisions. These individuals generally complement the business owner’s own expertise and could include anyone from a financial advisor or a lawyer to a sales expert or a marketing specialist.

Business owner advisory boards are a longtime staple of large businesses, but owners of privately held businesses generally haven’t had the resources to take advantage of them. Plus, when you’re mired in a business problem, even expert advice from a paid advisory board often can’t compare to sharing your concerns with a group of people who not only understand your business but also understand the pressures you face as a business owner.

That’s where local peer-to-peer external advisory boards can be valuable. They bring together like-minded business owners across a variety of industries who can all share insight and expertise to help each other’s businesses grow. In these peer-to-peer boards, members come together as equals in business with a shared goal of growing their companies and developing their own skills as business owners and leaders. This creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, where members can be frank about their challenges and questions.

Who Might Benefit From A Business Owner Advisory Board?

Whether you’re just getting your first business off the ground, or you’ve been around the block a few times before, you’ll benefit from a business owner advisory board. Don’t underestimate the power a group of likeminded business owners can have when they put their attentions and business acumen toward the same goals.

The benefits of joining an advisory board extend across industries. These include professional services, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, construction, finance, insurance, and real estate.

Seeking out a business owner advisory board is a smart move for a business owner who:

  • Has been running a business smoothly for some time but is ready to increase growth.
  • Is considering a new direction for the business and is headed into uncharted territory.
  • Knows that the business is in a rut and isn’t sure how to get out of it.
  • Is considering a transition of power — especially within a family — and needs advice.
  • Could use regular help with marketing, hiring, employee management, and other day-to-day business concerns.
  • Wants to run the business more efficiently to improve work-life balance.
  • Has just bought a new business and could use expert mentorship.
  • Is looking to sell a business and wants to make it more attractive for a potential buyer.

In short, a business owner advisory board is a smart move for every business owner. But particularly for those who are hungry to improve both professionally and personally.

Isn’t it the same as a Chamber of Commerce and/or a BNI Chapter?

The Chamber of Commerce and BNI groups are an excellent source for networking.  Networking is an essential tool for any business looking to grow and spread the word about the great work the business is doing.  You specifically join these groups to build your brand, educate others to your services, convey a positive image, and share stories of success.

In a peer advisory board, your mission is quite different.  Inherently, there will be networking, however its main intent is to lean upon one another to find solutions to business challenges and opportunities.  At a peer advisory board, you get to share both your successes and your challenges and receive valuable collective knowledge from your peers to help you build a path to success and avoid pitfalls that others have encountered before.

A peer advisory board will assist in the development of effective business growth strategies, marketing strategies, succession strategies, etc. In a board with a diverse membership, it’s likely one of your peers has come across whichever situation you’re considering in the past and can give you custom-tailored advice.

Each member of a peer advisory board will come with a different unique set of strengths and weaknesses, tried and tested in the real world. This makes a board a powerful tool for business owners to help fill the gaps in each other’s knowledge and grow their own capabilities in other areas. Along with receiving advice, you will also get an opportunity to share your own knowledge. That challenges you to grow, as well as gives you an opportunity to help other business owners.

As an added bonus, many business owners find it difficult to admit vulnerability or knowledge gaps to others, a peer advisory board is designed as a safe space where you can assess your strengths and grow professionally.

Do I need an outsider’s perspective?

When you’re too close to your business, it can be difficult to see issues or opportunities that might be glaringly obvious to someone else. Cultivating a group of unbiased outside observers is an excellent way to expand your perspective. (This can be especially helpful for family-owned businesses, which often suffer from relying on the advice of too many people with very similar points of view.)

This is one of the best values of a board made up of members across different industries or disciplines. A business owner who has spent 40 years in manufacturing will have unique questions and ideas to offer a wholesale business. These could spark true light bulb moments, whereas if you brought up your problem to a group consisting only of wholesaling professionals, you might hear only industry- standard advice.

Do I need to be held accountable?

Many business leaders excel at meeting the day-to-day deadlines of the business. But big-picture goals designed to stretch the business — like implementing a new marketing strategy or networking with potential business partners — often get pushed to the back burner.

A business owner advisory board helps provide accountability to keep you on track with big-picture goals. Knowing that you will need to walk into your next meeting and report on your progress provides the positive peer pressure to accomplish those things that will truly grow your business.

Along with providing positive peer pressure and accountability, members of a business owner advisory board can help you understand why you’re having trouble missing certain milestones or goals. They can help you identify which issues are holding you back or brainstorm ways to get obstacles out of your path.

What to consider when joining a business owner advisory board?

Many boards will let you attend a meeting as a guest before deciding to join. This is a good idea, as it allows you to see the group dynamic in action and gives you a better sense of whether this group works for you. When you are deciding if the board is a good fit, consider the following before deciding:

  • Do they offer a performance guarantee?
  • What is the monetary investment?
  • Who is the facilitator, and will you enjoy working with them?
  • Do they have competing businesses in attendance?
  • How often do they meet?
  • How long do the meetings last?
  • Will you be able to share your challenge or opportunity at each meeting?

In conclusion, you will find success in a peer advisory board if you have a willingness to share advice coupled with an openness to receive advice.  An ideal member will be willing to be vulnerable enough to learn and grow along with your fellow board members, willing to share (and empathize with) personal challenges, and willing to hear (and offer) tough advice?

Final question, are you ready for a peer advisory board? 

If you have questions relating to the content of this article, Kelly Kasper would welcome the opportunity to answer them.  Ms. Kasper can be reached at (206) 914-3812 or kelly@tabnorthseattle.com.

Kelly Kasper brings 30 years of business expertise to assist organizations in navigating businesses through times of challenge, opportunity, and change.  She applies her skills in strategic planning, continuity of operations, team building and training, organization, management training and development.  Kelly helps business owners, executives and managers reach their goals, become better leaders, and unleash the potential of their businesses.   She has served hundreds of businesses in Washington as an executive coach and consultant during the last 17 years.  Kelly is also the owner of HT2 Consulting Services, LLC a disaster preparedness and continuity of operations firm.  

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.