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Are we there yet? Knowing when to implement an Advisory Board.

It’s great to see discussions about Advisory Boards growing in Australia. When I speak at executive events or directly with other entrepreneurs, the “Are we there yet?” question is top of mind for them. They see the value and results that an Advisory Board can bring to their organisation but they need help determining when they are ready to implement their own Advisory Board.

Advisory Boards are not a destination but rather an important signpost on your entrepreneurial journey. And while timing is important, the real question that should be explored is not when but how will you implement your Advisory Board.

But before we explore the how, let’s look at some of the triggers where an Advisory Board can provide meaningful support to an organisation:

  • Establishment generally occurs at a key business life-cycle stage: Emerging/ Start-up phase, as well as organisations experiencing Growth, Change or considering Sale or Exit;
  • The organisation is seeking Investment, Export or International Expansion opportunities;
  • The organisation needs Crisis or Situation Management expertise and input;
  • The CEO/Managing Director needs a new insights and external skills to assist with problem solving and strategic advice.

In my own businesses, establishing an Advisory Board wasn’t driven by a single trigger but a combination of many factors. My business was experiencing rapid growth but I wanted to be open to other possibilities and not limited to my own line of sight. As the Managing Director I wanted the professional support of trusted Advisors without losing my autonomy and decision making ability. And finally, I wanted to have meaningful conversations about the sale or exit from my business- both to ensure I was positioning the business for stability and sustainability as well as maximising the return on investment.

Are we there yet?

The reality is if I waited until I thought I was “there” to establish my Advisory Board, I would have missed out on all the valuable advice and insight from my advisers to support me on the journey. In my experience working with entrepreneurs and progressive organisations in the Advisory Board space, the main indicator of Advisory Board Readiness (the “when”) is the internal commitment and foresight of the organisation’s Leaders to implement and maintain a well-structured Advisory Board (the “how”).

A Well Structured, Sustainable Advisory Board

Establishing an Advisory Board is not directly linked to organisational size, turnover or age. We know that the organisation must have clear internal commitment from the CEO/Managing Director. We also know that successful Boards have a clear structure and implementation. This includes everything from ensuring the Organisation has identified any internal issues for consideration/action, establishment of a Charter, Roles and comprehensive recruitment process.

Establishing an Advisory Board is not directly linked to organisational size, turnover or age but rather the internal commitment and foresight of the organisation’s Leaders.

Ensuring your advisory and governance structures are built on a best practice foundation is a good place to start.  Supported by years of research and an independent Technical Committee, the Advisory Board Centre developed the global-first ABF101 Advisory Board Best Practice Framework to support organisations and their Advisors.

We also support organisations with the complimentary Advisor Concierge service to help them identify their key priorities and Advisor engagement options.  The outcome of this process is not always a recommendation for the immediate implementation of a Board.  Your business may need to start with the support of a Certified Chair, a 1:1 strategic Advisor or you may need more operational support.  The Advisor Concierge can help connect you to a wider network of support to meet you specific needs.

Supporting the Entrepreneurial Journey

Many entrepreneurs have a trusted, informal network that they access to “bounce idea off of” or to “pick each other’s brains”. These networks are invaluable but informal advisory boards rarely drive results. Formalising your access to high-quality and successful advisors through an Advisory Board takes this process to a new and exciting level.

If you are considering an Advisory Board to support your entrepreneurial journey, I encourage you to read about Greg Kentish, a fellow entrepreneur who has been enjoying the support and success that his Advisory Board has brought to his group of companies.

As an entrepreneur, I really appreciate that I receive great advice from my Advisory Board, but I am not bound by their recommendations. I enjoy the structure and discipline of the meetings. But I think one of the very best parts is the opportunity to work closely with Advisors who are successful entrepreneurs and business professionals who are willing to share their success, experience, connections and innovative thinking with me. – Greg Kentish, Acacia Connection

Establishing an Advisory Board is a big step to take for organisations – both in terms of leadership commitment and financial investment. If you’d like to discuss if it’s the right time for you or your organisation, please contact us at the Advisory Board Centre.

About Author:

Louise Broekman
Louise is an award winning Entrepreneur, researcher and business advisor. Louise has received recognition from Industry and Government at a local and national level for her contribution to the Australian business sector. She is an in-demand speaker and is regularly called upon as the leading voice for Advisory Boards in the Asia Pacific region.