Advisor Insights with Raihan Islam

Advisor Insights

Published 17 April 2024

If I am doing advisory board work, I want to learn best practices from leaders around the world.

Raihan Islam is a lawyer, advisory board Certified Chair™ and Non Executive Director.  He has built his career in a similar fashion to the startups he advises- delivering excellence and impact at high-velocity. 

With over 15 years of experience in business and technology consulting, project and product management, and legal and regulatory compliance, Raihan is passionate about using his skills and expertise to make a positive impact in the world.  Having lived and worked as a truly global citizen in the United States, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, and Ukraine, Raihan has developed a keen understanding of how to connect with stakeholders.  He recognised that this was as important for his own portfolio development as it was for the organisations he advises.  How do you effectively rise above the market?

In this Advisor Insights interview with Advisory Board Centre Founder Louise Broekman, Raihan shares his personal motivations to invest in best practice and how that continues to make him an advisor of first choice for the organisations he serves.


Key Insights

  • Using best practice as a framework to minimise risk and maximise value in your portfolio of work
  • Articulating your true value to avoid imposter syndrome
  • The importance of collaborative learning networks to support you on your journey


I wanted to get the chair certification because I think that anyone could, theoretically, call themselves an advisor but what does that really mean in terms of the standards or protocols that go around being an independent advisor? As a lawyer, I always want to be above board. I always want to do the right thing.


Read the transcript

Louise Broekman: Welcome to the Advisor Insights Interviews. I’m here with Raihan Islam in London. Welcome, Raihan.

Raihan Islam: Hi, Louise. Nice to be here.

Louise Broekman: It’s good to see you again. And Raihan, this topic today is really important around the early stages of moving into the advisory board profession as a credentialed Certified Chair. But Raihan, before we get into the detail, I’d love for you to share a bit about you and the work that you’re doing.

Raihan Islam: Thank you very much, Louise. So for one, I’ve been involved as a Certified Chair for, I suppose since late October now. And what I’m doing is that I’m a start-up coach. I’m an advisor to different businesses. They might be starting, they might already be having turnover of one to 5 million a year or more. And I act as a trusted advisor to a number of executives. Effectively, they have some different issues. Initially, they came to me because I’m a solicitor, I’m a lawyer, said, oh, Raihan, can you write some contracts for me? But then what they realized, and this is what I realized about myself as time passed, is that I wasn’t just interested in acting as a lawyer. I saw how I could look at what strategically matters to my clients. And eventually this built up this, I suppose, identity that I’ve had as a trusted advisor and as someone who can look at things strategically, maybe helping with some lawyer types of items as well, but also looking at operations and just overall business.

And that’s when I realized my clients see me as someone who can help with that. I saw myself as someone who can help with that. And as someone who also has technology background, I’ve been involved in different start-ups, different initiatives. I thought, well, there’s a real big opportunity here for me. I have been an advisor on advisory boards for start-ups. And then I suppose I might be going a little bit further into the story, but it got me thinking, well, I value that being an advisor to companies. It’s something that matters to me that businesses can look up to what insights that I have to offer, any wisdom that I can share because I don’t want my clients to struggle or to suffer. I mean, yeah, there’s different things that people learn, but if there’s any way that I can help make the journey smoother or shortcut some things in a practical manner, then that’s something that I try to do for my clients.

Louise Broekman: We met about mid last year (2023), and as you mentioned, you’d already been sitting on advisory boards. Why was best practice important to you when you are already actually being activated in the market on advisory boards already?

Raihan Islam: That’s actually a very important question. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get the certification because I think that anyone could theoretically call themselves an advisor, but what does that really mean in terms of what are the standards or protocols that go around being an independent advisor? It’s possible that someone can say that they’re an advisor, but what if they’re actually doing some consulting work? What if they’re recommending things as opposed to being independent? Are they truly being advisors? Are they actually part of the business? Are they accidentally being a shadow director? So as a lawyer, I always want to be above board. I always want to do the right thing. And frankly, I don’t want to necessarily have to be the one that’s in the business doing the activities of the directors. I want to be able to step back. And what I’ve learned through best practice frameworks through the Advisory Board Centre is that there is a very good way to do that. And actually it’s laid out very well by the Centre. So that’s why I really thought, you know what? If I am doing advisory board work, I want to learn best practices from leaders around the world who’ve been doing this.

Louise Broekman: It was terrific having you in the program. A lot of case studies are really a lot of bringing into context for the region. Where do you see advisory boards heading? Raihan, now that you’ve been involved with advisory boards already, you’re now exposed to best practice. The advisory board community is growing in the UK European zone. Where do you see advisory boards heading in the region?

Raihan Islam: In general, a lot of businesses may have not necessarily understood the value of an advisory board, but as say more individuals like myself are getting involved in communities, but also those who haven’t been advisors before, when they understand that this is something that businesses can benefit from and vice versa. When businesses understand that they can also learn from advisors. What I see anyway is that it’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. And I do think that the research shows that more and more businesses see the need of having advisory boards. So the future that I see is it will just become something that is, if you have this, it will really help your business. It can help you from avoid heartache costs that you didn’t need to experience. It’s just a smart thing to have that’s just a supplemental part of a business. So at a high level, that’s what I think. I hope that answers your question.

Louise Broekman: The advisory board sector is growing globally, and that’s a great opportunity, but it’s also problematic for the sector when we have people sitting on advisory boards or establishing advisory boards and not knowing what they’re doing. So this is where best practice I think is really important. Raihan for quality, impactful advisory boards, but then also being safe from a governance perspective. It’s great to see the growth of the advisory board sector across the region. We are going to be running another program in London in June 2024. For those that are considering the Advisory Board Centre and the Certified Chair Executive Program and best practice Raihan, just in your own words, what would you say would be your advice to those that are just really exploring this for the very first time?

Raihan Islam: So for those who you’re referring in terms of becoming an advisory board professional or certification. So there’s so much wisdom that we have that we might not even realize that we have. And I think that a lot of this comes from imposter syndrome actually, where people aren’t sure, do I really have that competency? Do I really have that experience? And the reality is, typically speaking, if we’ve gone through some form of work experience or career in various different areas, we’ve learned a lot of different things. And actually there are businesses that can benefit from what we’ve learned. And it did take some time for me to think, well, you know what? I could be an advisor. I have gained a lot of experience. I’ve seen different pains. I have dealt with those. So perhaps I can be an advisor to someone who might not have had that much experience in a particular area.

That way I’m able to help them not deal with that pain. So it is what I would say to those considering potential opportunities in acting as an advisor is that there are, how do I say? There’s a concept called trading downwards, which is, for me, I would be seeking advice and coaching and mentoring from those who have more experience than me in a particular area. And so I see it the same way. If someone wants to become an advisor, well, there are businesses, entrepreneurs, other groups that would benefit from gaining some type of advice, independent advice from someone who has that experience when they don’t have it. So the opportunities are just massive because honestly, everyone is learning everywhere. Everyone’s at a different stage of where they’re at. So an advisor certainly has a place, whatever their level of experience is, experiences, they’re able to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to others wherever they are in their journey.

Louise Broekman: To be able to give advice, know what it’s like to receive it. So circular movement of we’re all learning, as you said, it’s a great concept, Raihan, it’s also work. So you are working hard on building your profile and working with clients. It’s just not about the program, it’s then about activating it. And this is where the Advisory Board Centre community is a really great collaboration to really hold each other to account and support each other along the way. But you are working hard at it, which is great to see.

Raihan Islam: For me it’s something that is actually very important to me to grow these skills, to understand how to apply the best practice framework as much as I can. So I think the executive training that when I joined the executive program last year, that was very helpful for me because it allowed me to see, alright, there’s a way that I can apply this and actually drive my advisory board portfolio forward.

Louise Broekman: Just on another note, the Certified Chair program not only looks at best practice methodology for implementation of an advisory board, but actually building an advisory board portfolio is also an important part of that journey. How is that related to you?

Raihan Islam: So for me, it actually works really well. And that’s why I was so happy when I learned about the Advisory Board Centre and the executive program because part of my identity is advisor and advisory board professional. And what that’s allowed me to do is that for my business development purposes, I mean I identify as an advisory board Certified Chair, so Certified Chair of the Advisory Board Centre in my marketing materials, I’m referencing with the Certified Chair logo. I’m a Certified Chair. That’s something that when I’m speaking with start-ups and other businesses, I can refer to that it’s part of my identity and it’s backed by an organization that’s recognized for advisory board professionals. So I include it as part of my marketing. It makes conversations easier and shorter because if I am pitching my services to start-ups and small businesses, they’ll realize that I’m dedicated and passionate about exactly being an advisory board professional, someone who not only can, but does provide this type of value and benefit to his clients.

Louise Broekman: It really points to the investment in the profession. The time of winging advice and advisory boards is no longer. And so having the dedication to best practice and ethics in the way that you provide advice really provides assurance and confidence to the market. So I really appreciate that you’ve recognized that today, Raihan. Thank you.

Raihan Islam: Thank you very much. There’s just one other thing that I wanted to mention is that not only am I mentioning it in my marketing, I’m actually finding ways to productize having that certification into my offers. What I mean by that is, for example, in about a month, I’ll be speaking at an event that I’m running myself. And in that event, I’ll be talking about opportunities for those who are in the audience to have that opportunity for me to be an advisor to their business. And one of the things is that I can mention that I have gone through this rigorous training of being an advisory board professional. So I’m able to reference the fact that I am a Certified Chair, but it’s also just how to say, I’m able to just include this into my offerings and really just spell out the benefits that one can get. For example, within the resources, there’s an advisory board starter program, and that’s something that I’m able to help businesses with that I would be able to actually act in that capacity. And so it’s just a lot of opportunities have been created out of going through this training. And I’m seeing many different, how to say, light bulbs and doors open just in my head that allow me to just navigate forward.

Louise Broekman: And that opens up broader conversations in the relationships that you are building in the market. Thank you. That’s excellent. I wish you all the very best and I look forward to seeing you in London in June.

Raihan Islam: Thank you, Louise.


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