Advisor Insights with Jo Willoughby: Advisory Board Chair, Non-Executive Director

Advisor Insights

Published 22 November 2019

Jo Willoughby is on a mission to help organisations stay relevant and competitive by realising their future state in the age of disruption. Drawing on her experience across sectors including industry, public and private, Jo works shoulder-to-shoulder with CEO’s to help them navigate opportunities and unpack complex problems to realise growth in their businesses. In addition to being a strategic advisor and Non-Executive Director, Jo is also a certified advisory board Chair.

In this Advisor Insights conversation with Louise Broekman, CEO of the Advisory Board Centre, Jo shares her perspective on why supporting Owners and CEOs is a privilege, the transformative power of vulnerability for leaders and how Advisors can create a positive impact with the organisations they serve.

The Advisor Insights series are unfiltered conversations giving you a lens into real people and real businesses within the Advisor ecosystem.

Listen to the Podcast

Read the transcript

Louise Broekman: So welcome to the Advisory Board Insights. My name is Louise Broekman and I’m here with the lovely Jo Willoughby. Jo, welcome.

Jo Willoughby: Thanks so much for having me today, Louise.

Louise Broekman: You’re welcome. So Jo, to start off, tell us a bit about your story.

Jo Willoughby: My story is I’m a non-executive director and Advisory Board Chair and a skilled general manager. I have a track record of building business and developing growth, particularly through innovation and change. I’ve gone across the industry from private, public and government-owned enterprises. And so the diversity of my experience essentially adds value to the various roles that I’m involved in to deliver on my mission, which is to ensure that organisations stay relevant and competitive, particularly in this age of disruption.

Louise Broekman: Jo, you became a Certified Chair. Tell me about what that experience has been like and your roles in Advisory Boards.

Jo Willoughby: I’ve actually absolutely loved it. Louise, as I mentioned, my mission is really to help organisations stay relevant and competitive. And I do that in a number of different delivery modes. The Advisory Board opportunity is one of those modes for me. And I work with a couple of growing organisations. They’ve established businesses both in the professional services space, one here based in Australia and operating in the US and the other one also domiciled here in Australia, but also operating in a really interesting spot across tier one organisations right through to emerging businesses that are also scaling. For me the opportunity to be a Certified Chair and CEO mentor has been, it’s an absolute privilege. It’s something that I absolutely relish. I love the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with business owners to work with them on really unpacking problems. So the distinction around Advisory Boards as you are well aware is around problem solving. So we get down and dirty on some real issues in the business. And for me it’s a great opportunity to work with those organisations to help them achieve the growth aspirations that they have.

Louise Broekman: Fantastic. And with your experience in Advisory Boards, what would be your tips for business owners?

Jo Willoughby: From a business owner perspective, I think business owners really need to be at that place from a mindset perspective that they’re quite happy to open up the kimono of their business. For them to get the maximum value of an Advisory Board they need to be prepared to show some vulnerabilities and be absolutely okay with that. For me the experience that I’ve had is when business owners feel that they can trust you and they can open up, that’s where the opportunity and the most value arises from my experience. And that’s where the growth actually comes from. Because if they’re hiding some aspect of the business or might not necessarily have a particular skill, or be strong in a particular skill set and they are hiding some aspect from the Advisory Board, then we’re only getting part of the story when they can open up and share the whole box and dice, so to speak. That’s where the opportunity really is. And that’s where the growth starts.

Louise Broekman: And that genuine nature of that relationship is, is quite special, isn’t it?

Jo Willoughby: It’s precious, Louise is probably the best way that I can describe it. It really is quite precious. And as an Advisory Board chair, it’s really such an honour because you do get to step into the space of the business owner and some of the complexities that they’re dealing with. Some of their own vulnerabilities or their sense of insecurity and so forth and really share that with you. And so for me, it really is, it’s sacred. It’s really a sacred spot. It’s one to be respected, to be honoured. And one that I absolutely relish and love, as I said earlier.

Louise Broekman: Jo, what would be some tips for advisors? You’ve been in this space now for quite a while.

Jo Willoughby: My number one tip from an advisor perspective is really around leave your judgement at the door. That goes hand in hand with trying to build trust and building rapport with the business owner. If you’re coming in with judgement then that’s just not going to work. You’re there because you’re trusted to be able to work with the business owner and help them take that business forward or whatever their particular agenda is, whether it’s a transition, whether it’s for growth so the judgements around what they should have done or could have done- there really is no place for that. It’s about meeting them where they’re at and partnering with them on the journey.

Louise Broekman: It’s interesting, a few weeks ago I ran some focus groups with business owners to see what drives them crazy external advisors and the whole thing is that you should do this. That just drives everybody crazy.

Jo Willoughby: You’re not a consultant. It really is about meeting with them and respecting where the business is at.

Louise Broekman: We’ve had a few little technical breakups here, but I think we’re okay. It must be the busy background you’ve got there! Jo, we just love the work you are doing.

Jo Willoughby: Thanks so much, Louise, for the opportunity to chat to you today. Thank you again.